Biden plans review of national monuments, including Northeast Canyons and Seamounts

Recently inaugurated U.S. President Joe Biden announced – just hours after he was sworn in – that he plans to perform a review of the Trump administration’s actions regarding a number of national monuments, including the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts monument.

The Northeast Canyons and Seamounts National Monument is the first national monument in the Atlantic Ocean, and one of just five marine monuments in the U.S. Located off the east coast, the monument was created in 2016 by U.S. President Barack Obama and encompasses 4,913 square miles of ocean.

From its inception, the monument has been a controversial subject for the fishing industry. Fishermen engaged in a lawsuit challenging the creation of the monument, which was ultimately dismissed in January 2020. However, Obama's successor, Donald Trump, issued a proclamation reopening the monument to commercial fishing in June 2020.

That rollback of protections resulted in immediate lawsuits from conservation organizations. It also resulted in a new amendment by the New England Fishery Management Council (NEFMC), which was approved by NOAA Fisheries, providing “sweeping protections” for deep-sea corals in the areas both inside the monument and across the coast. That amendment includes 82 percent of the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument, begins at a depth of 600 meters, and extends to the 200-mile exclusive economic zone limit.

Now, the Associated Press reports that Biden is taking yet another look at the monument. In response, members of the U.S. fishing industry are asking him to leave the current state of the monument as-is.

“We appreciate that President Biden has requested a review of the Trump administration’s actions on the monument rather than issuing an immediate reversal,” Saving Seafood, which advocates for the seafood industry in the region, said in a statement. “Our members look forward to discussing these issues with Rep. Deb Haaland as soon as she is confirmed as Interior secretary, just as we met with [former Interior] Secretary Ryan Zinke and [former Interior] Secretary David Bernhardt.”

Saving Seafood asserts the Magnuson-Stevens Act is a sufficient regulatory tool to ensure the sustainability of seafood harvesting in the region, and that the actions of the Trump administration created “parity between recreational and commercial fishing in the monument, allowing both recreational and commercial fishermen to harvest sustainably in accordance with the Magnuson-Stevens Act.”

The NEFMC action to protect corals in the region was undertaken under the framework of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, which established the council in the first place when it was enacted in 1976.

Continuing that management method will continue to allow science-based regulation of the region by stakeholders, Saving Seafood said.

“President Biden has vowed to make science a central theme of his administration. In an online briefing introducing his team of top five science advisors before the inauguration, he said, ‘As president, I’ll pay great attention’ to science and scientists,” Saving Seafood said. “As long as the review ordered by President Biden is conducted fairly and honestly, and in accordance with science and data, we believe the results should be to continue to allow sustainable fishing, both commercial and recreational, under the Magnuson-Stevens Act.”    

Image courtesy of NOAA


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