U.S. President Barack Obama is expected to establish the country’s first marine national monument in the Atlantic Ocean on Thursday. The new Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument, which begins about 150 miles southeast of Cape Cod, will protect 4,913 square miles of ocean area.
The designation of the new marine national monument comes two weeks after Obama expanded the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument in the northwestern Hawaiian Islands initially set up by former president George W. Bush in 2006.
The Papahanaumokuakea monument is the world’s largest marine reserve and is four times bigger than the state of California.
“By protecting ecologically sensitive areas of our ocean, the United States is leading on an issue that is important to people on every continent because of the ocean’s connection to food security, shared prosperity, and resiliency in the face of climate change,” Secretary of State John Kerry reportedly said.
Undersea drilling and mining and commercial fishing activity will be banned in the new marine reserve which is roughly the size of Connecticut.
The reserve is home to a series of canyons and underwater mountains that rise as high as 7,000 feet from the seafloor. These are the only such formations in the U.S. Atlantic.
Several unique types of coral, different species of mammals, including sperm, fin and sei whales are found in the newly designated reserve. Some specimen are unique to this particular ecosystem.
“Teddy Roosevelt had the foresight to protect the treasures of America's landscape. With that same boldness, President Obama is conserving the crown jewels of our nation's seascape,” Rhea Suh, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, reportedly said. “This historic act will make our ocean more resilient to climate change. By preserving this rich diversity of marine life, it will also support New England's coastal and ocean economy.”
The Department of Interior and Commerce will be responsible for managing the reserve where recreational fishing is allowed.
On a visit to the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, the president said, “I look forward to knowing that 20 years from now, 40 years from now, 100 years from now, this is a place where people can still come to and see what a place like this looks like when it's not overcrowded or destroyed by human populations.”
The president will announce Thursday the new marine reserve at an ocean conservation meeting in Washington.