WASHINGTON, DC –The Obama Administration announce a plan to designate the nation’s first marine national monument in the Atlantic Ocean, comprised of two areas encompassing three canyons and four seamounts around 150 miles off the New England coast, U.S. Senators Jack Reed (D-RI) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and U.S. Representatives James Langevin (D-RI) and David Cicilline (D-RI) issued the following statement.
“This decision will create an important sanctuary for marine life, particularly around deep-sea corals. It will also have a real effect on important segments of Rhode Island’s commercial fishing industry.
“From the outset, we urged the Administration to make this a transparent decision, based on scientific, economic, and public input. While there wasn’t as much community engagement as some hoped for, we made sure concerns from Rhode Island’s fishing industry, state regulators, and other stakeholders were heard at the highest level.
“Our fishermen and the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management came to the table with catch data and the fishermen offered a reasonable compromise that would have balanced the importance of conservation with the needs of an industry battling serious headwinds in recent years. Their input resulted in key changes. Going forward, the federal government must enhance stakeholder engagement when it comes to ocean planning and fisheries management in New England.
“This designation reflects a more workable approach toward conservation, sustainability, and productive fisheries than had been initially contemplated. It includes specific measures we advocated to ease some of its effects on Rhode Island commercial fishermen. In particular, our offshore lobster and red crab fisheries will have seven years of continued fishing in the area — there will be a two-month transition for others — and the monument will be far more geographically focused than earlier proposals.
“As we go forward, other measures may be needed to assist the industry in adapting to this change, and we have received assurances that the Administration will join us in advocating for additional federal and private resources to help our hard-working fishermen and lobstermen.
“Designating a marine national monument off New England is a new chapter that opens exciting opportunities for ocean conservation, research, and exploration. The federal government must now assume responsibility for managing, exploring, and studying this protected area. This should be an endeavor that enlists the expertise of institutions like the University of Rhode Island, as well as the fishermen who know these areas best.”