FAIRFIELD COUNTY, Conn. – A historic bid has been launched to designate the New England Coral Canyons and Seamounts — located about 150 miles off-shore from Connecticut —as the first-ever Atlantic marine national monument.
At the Sound School in New Haven last week, U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) announced the campaign, which is being led by the entire Connecticut Congressional delegation, including U.S. Reps. Jim Himes, Rosa DeLauro and Elizabeth Esty.
Blumenthal released a letter signed by the full Connecticut Congressional delegation urges President Barack Obama to use his authority under the Antiquities Act of 1906 to preserve and protect the unique environmental treasure.
The New England Coral Canyons and Seamounts lies about 150 miles off the coast of New England along the continental shelf, and is an area of immense natural diversity.
“The New England Coral Canyons and Seamounts area, a pristine hotspot of diverse and fragile wildlife and habitats, is deeply deserving of this designation, and we urge you to employ your authority under the Antiquities Act to protect this area. …This area is just as precious as any national park, and its riches just as priceless,” the delegation letter says.
The area is home to at least 73 different species of deep sea coral, countless sharks, whales, dolphins, sea turtles and sea birds. The undersea canyons rival the Grand Canyon in size and scale, and the underwater mountains are higher than any east of the Rockies—as high as 7,700 feet from the ocean floor.
Designation as a national monument would protect the area from damaging commercial activity and ensure proper care and management. The measure would protect countless species from irreversible damage, help make the ocean more resilient to climate change, support economic activity reliant on the health of the ocean, advance research, and preserve natural history.
Blumenthal was joined at the announcement by Dr. Peter Auster, senior research scientist at the Mystic Aquarium; Brad Sewell, director of Fisheries & US Atlantic for the Natural Resources Defense Council; and Kendal Barbery of Connecticut Fund for the Environment, Save the Sound Green Infrastructure Program Manager.
This area is just as precious as any national park, the letter says, and its riches just as priceless. The reasons to designate it as a monument include the following:
- Protect countless species from irreversible damage;
- Help make the ocean more resilient to climate change and ocean acidification;
- Support economic activity that depends on healthy oceans;
- Advance science and research done by important institutions in our state and region – including the University of Connecticut, the Mystic Aquarium and the Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk; and
- Preserve natural history.
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