Environmentalists Oppose Commercial Fishing Within Northeast Marine National Monument

Oct 10, 2017

Local environmentalists are worried allowing commercial fishing within the boundaries of a marine national monument 130 miles off the coast of Cape Cod would harm the area's ecosystem and biodiversity.   

U.S. Department of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke recently completed his review of 27 national monuments, including the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument.

The monument, made up of four underwater mountains and three underwater canyons, spans 4,913 square miles. It was designated a year ago by former-president Barrack Obama under authority granted by the 1906 Antiquities Act. 

The designation banned commerical fishing, with the exception of lobster and red crab fishing, within the monument's boundaries. 

Credit NOAA

In a leaked report, Zinke recommends President Trump allow commercial fishing and return regulation authority to the federally-supported New England Fishery Management Council, which was established under the 1976 Magnuson-Setevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. 

Citizens-based advocacy group Environment America, which has state branches in Rhode Island and Massachusetts, believes commercial fishing should remain banned because they said the monument is home to hundreds of species, including deep-sea corals and migratory fish, and serves as an entanglement-free zone for endangered marine mammals. 

"We will not see in this area whales or dolphins or sea turtles caught up in nets or traps or lines, so that will be a benefit for any endangered species in that area," Kelsey Lamp, oceans fellow at Environment America, said.

However, the New England Fishery Management Council supports Zinke's recommedations. 

Janice Plante, spokeswoman for the council, said the agency is best equip to regulate New England fisheries because that's what they were designed to do. 

Plante said the council uses a very transparent process, which includes public council meetings and public comment periods, to weigh different factors related to fishing activities to make the best decisions for fishermen and the public. 

Zinke’s report is still under review by President Trump.