March 16, 2017 — Tuesday’s winter storm prevented Mayor Jon Mitchell from appearing in front of the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources on Wednesday, but he still voiced his opinion on the matter of national marine monuments through written testimony.
Mitchell submitted five pages laying out criticism of President Barack Obama’s executive order that created a protected marine area about 130 miles off the coast of Cape Cod last September.
“The monument designation last fall puts New Bedford jobs in peril, specifically jobs associated with the crab and lobster industries,” he told The Standard-Times. “More generally, the authority exercised by the president is something that could be used again and put other jobs at risk.”
In his testimony, Mitchell highlighted two key concerns with the monuments. First, he called the monument “poorly conceived” and again questioned the process of establishing the protected waters.
“It lacks sufficient amounts of all the ingredients that good policy-making requires: Scientific rigor, direct industry input, transparency and a deliberate pace that allows adequate time and space for review,” Mitchell wrote in his testimony.
He also questioned the effectiveness of the monuments in protecting marine life, stating that fisheries focused on fish near the surface of the water would “have no impact on the integrity of the bathymetry and substrate that a monument is meant to protect.”
Proponents of the monument refer to the order as a vital piece to the future of marine life. Dr. John Bruno, a biology professor at the University of North Carolina who attended Wednesday’s hearing, supported the protected waters. He criticized past legislation like the Magnuson-Stevens Act saying it’s failed to protect oceanic ecosystems.
Under the Magnuson-Stevens act, temporary fishery management plans are enacted for finite periods. Monuments like those enacted by Obama under the Antiquities Act, are permanent.
“Permanent is an awfully long time to state the obvious,” Mitchell said. “When decisions like that are made, they have to be subjected to the fullest possible input. I’m certainly not taking the position that this sort of thing should never happen but rather these decisions need to be more carefully made.”