Review of Northeast marine monument underway as Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke visits Boston

Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke completed a trip to the U.S. Northeast as part of a review of recently created U.S. national monuments, including the controversial Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument. 

Zinke is in the process of reviewing all national monuments designated in the past 21 years as part of an executive order signed by President Donald Trump in April.

“Right now, I’m in the information collection stage, so everything is on the table,” Zinke told the Boston Globe during his visit.

On Friday, 16 June, Zinke met with representatives of the commercial fishing industry affected by former president Barack Obama’s designation of the 4,000-square-mile marine monument located more than 100 miles off the coast of Cape Cod, in September 2016. The designation immediately outlawed most commercial fishing in the monument, with the exception of lobster and crab fishing, which will be phased out over the next six years.

Meghan Lapp of Seafreeze, Ltd., which previously fished for squid, mackerel, and butterfish in the area where the monument now exists, told Zinke her company had already lost hundreds of thousands of dollars, according to the Globe. She, as well as Beth Casoni, the executive director of the Massachusetts Lobstermen’s Association, and others present at the meeting, said there was a lack of communication by the federal government in making the designation that had hurt their businesses.

“No one person should have the authority to sign Americans out of work,” Casoni said, according to the Globe.

The fishermen present were hoping to persuade Zinke to shrink or eliminate the monument, and Zink appeared sympathetic, the newspaper reported.

“When your area of access continues to be reduced and reduced ... it just makes us noncompetitive,” Zinke said. “The president’s priority is jobs, and we need to make it clear that we have a long-term approach to make sure that fishing fleets are healthy.”

During his time in Boston, Zinke also met with scientists from the New England Aquarium as well as the monument’s superintendent, who described the unique natural and geological features of the area protected by the monument, including underwater canyons and mountains, harboring delicate deep-sea corals and other rare sea life.

The meeting was organized by U.S. domestic fisheries advocacy group Saving Seafood, through its National Coalition for Fishing Communities. Staff members representing Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Ed Markey (D-MA), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) were also present at the meeting.

Zinke said he will make a recommendation to Trump on whether to make any changes to the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument by the end of August. Trump cannot undo the monument’s designation, which was made under the Antiquities Act, but he can change its boundaries, or convert it into a national monument into a national park, if he so chooses.


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