Lost amidst the political shenanigans of the Presidential campaign was the news that President Obama signed off on the creation of the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument, 130 miles southeast of Cape Cod. The preserve, the first National Marine Sanctuary in the western Atlantic, stretches across more than 4900 square miles at the edge of the Continental Shelf.
Characterized by deep canyons, oceanic mountain ranges and seamounts, the area encompasses vital feeding grounds for whales, a wide diversity of marine fish and a host of sea birds, including wintering flocks of Atlantic puffins. The highly dissected topography, in which ocean depths range from 200 to more than 4000 meters, produces upwelling of deep sea nutrients, fueling a spectacular web of marine life.
Commercial fishing, mining and oil drilling will be excluded from the Monument though shellfish harvesting will be phased out over the next seven years. Just the latest addition to our National Park and Monument System, the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument must be replicated across the globe in order to protect Earth's marine ecosystems from overfishing and pollution. Already stressed by global warming, these fragile ecosystems need all the protection we can offer.