Two stretches of ocean about 210 kilometers southeast of Cape Cod have become the Atlantic Ocean’s first U.S. marine national monument.
The 12,725-square-kilometer area is called the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument. The new designation is intended to help protect the region’s fragile deep-sea ecosystem, which includes whales, sea turtles and corals, by gradually phasing out commercial fishing, including for crab and lobster.
“In these waters, the Atlantic Ocean meets the continental shelf in a region of great abundance and diversity as well as stark geological relief,” President Barack Obama said at the September 15 announcement. The new monument includes underwater canyons deeper than the Grand Canyon and submerged extinct volcanoes called seamounts. Expeditions in 2013 and 2014 by the research vessel Okeanos Explorer uncovered species of starfish and deep-sea corals thought to have never been seen before.