A draft management plan outlines proposed rules for the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts National Monument, on the eve of a Friday deadline for commercial lobster and crab fishing in the roughly 5,000-square-mile area south of Georges Bank.
The draft plan culminates years of struggle over the future of an area that ocean and environmental groups have long sought to have as a marine reserve. Established by former President Barack Obama under the Federal Antiquities Act, the monument encompasses an area of the Atlantic Ocean roughly the size of Connecticut, extending southward from the United States.e Oceanographer, Gilbert, and Lydonia Cliff-edge canyons 130 miles from Cape Cod to the Bear, Mytilus, Physalia and Retriever seamounts, the remains of ancient volcanoes.
Memorial advocates said Obama’s declaration is necessary to protect threatened and endangered marine mammals in the waters, and complex habitats on lower slopes including deep coral reefs.
The Obama administration has moved to phase out lobster and crab fishing, despite protests and court challenges from fishing groups. In July 2020, then-US President Donald Trump announced who would rescind the planned final ban.
Within days of taking office in January 2021, President Joe Biden’s administration moved to restore all planned restrictions, at the request of conservation and environmental groups. Supporters of commercial fishing called on the new administration to reconsider, but to no avail.
“Banning commercial fishing serves no conservation benefit,” James Boddy of the longtail fishermen group American Sword and Tuna Harvesters said at the time. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration officials acknowledged that “longline fishing gear used to catch swordfish has no impact on the habitat,” Boddy said. “The effect of hunting on the monument below us is like a bird flying over the Grand Canyon.”
The end of lobster and crab equipment is final as of Friday. The US Fish and Wildlife Service’s draft plan sets out a range of other management measures and restrictions on commercial fishing activities.
Commercial fishing vessels crossing the monument’s waters must do so with all gear stored “without interruption,” the document notes, “and any recreational fishing, educational trips, research, photography, or fishing activities involving commercial fishing are prohibited.”
For recreational fishing in the monument—now conducted mostly on pelagic tuna and swordfish—NOAA and the USFWS “do not propose to require any permits beyond the hosel currently required by NOAA fisheries ( NOAA) for recreational fishing in the monument.”
The plan document notes that public comment on the plan included calls to ban recreational fishing if commercial crops are not allowed. But Biden’s monument announcement specifically ended commercial fishing there, she says.
“The proposed plan includes the agency’s management roles and responsibilities, and identifies goals, objectives, and management activities necessary over the next 15 years to provide appropriate care for the monument’s unique ecosystem and natural resources, with an emphasis on research, education, and community engagement. “The draft plan also includes an environmental assessment to evaluate the potential impacts of implementing the proposed management actions,” according to a summary released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) on Sept. 12. “The draft plan also includes an environmental assessment to evaluate the potential impacts of implementing the proposed management actions.”
“President Biden’s reaffirmation of the need to develop a management plan for the Northeast Valleys and Seamounts Marine National Monument reinforces his commitment to protecting our most vital waters and the marine life that thrives in them,” said Janet Coit, associate administrator for fisheries at NOAA. “. .
Later this year, NOAA Fisheries will begin rulemaking to incorporate monument boundaries and commercial fishing prohibitions into Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Conservation and Management Act regulations
The draft management and environmental assessment plan and planning updates can be found on the website Antiquities Department planning website. The public can submit written comments on the priorities and goals outlined in the monument’s proposed management plan and environmental assessment through October 26, 2023 via Federal electronic rulemaking portal Or by mail to: Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument, USFWS, 300 Westgate Center Drive, Hadley, MA 01035.
After a 45-day public comment period, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) will consider the comments and determine whether a revision of the draft plan is necessary. The management plan and environmental assessment are expected to be completed in early 2024.