November 14th, 2016 — As of Monday, virtually all commercial fishing will be banned from the newly created Marine National Monument that includes the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts off the coast of southern New England.
The closure includes more than 4,900 square miles of ocean, or about the same area as the state of Connecticut, about 130 miles east-southeast of Cape Cod.
The Northeast Canyons represent 941 square miles of that total, while the protection afforded the Seamounts stretches over 3,972 square miles.
Currently, only lobster and red crab fishing are exempted from the closure. Those fisheries are grandfathered in for seven years before they also will be excluded and the area wholly shut off to commercial fishing.
The closure, widely criticized by fishing stakeholders as an end-run around the established national fishery management system, is a product of President Obama’s use of the Antiquities Act on Sept. 15 to create the new Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument.
The process, as it has in coastal communities around the country, pitted commercial fishing interests and other fishing stakeholders against environmentalists and conservationists in a contentious struggle over wide swaths of the nation’s oceans.
In August, in a victory for environmentalists and conservationists, Obama ended a roiling debate by more than quadrupling the size of the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument to 582,578 square miles in the northwestern Hawaiian Islands, establishing the largest protected area on the planet.