Today, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released a draft management plan and environmental assessment for the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument, as directed by Presidential Proclamation 9496 and reiterated by President Biden in Presidential Proclamation 10287, which restored protections significantly cut back by the previous Administration. The development of a management plan will advance the Biden-Harris administration’sAmerica the Beautiful initiative, which is supporting conservation efforts across the country to conserve and restore at least 30% of U.S. lands and waters by 2030.
The proposed plan includes agency management roles and responsibilities and lays out the goals, objectives and management activities needed over the next 15 years to provide proper care for the Monument’s unique ecosystem and natural resources, with a focus 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.
“The Administration’s continued commitment to the establishment of this Monument helps safeguard its unique ecosystem, rich marine life, and natural and historical resources for future generations,” said Service Director Martha Williams. “Input from the public and a wide range of partners and other interested parties on this draft plan will help ensure Monument managers can protect and conserve resources, engage the community as stewards of this dynamic area, and better understand Monument ecosystems in a changing climate.”
“President Biden’s reaffirmation of the need to develop a management plan for the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument further solidifies his commitment to protecting our most vital waters and the marine life that thrives in it,” said Assistant Administrator for NOAA Fisheries Janet Coit. “The management plan will also advance the goals of the Biden-Harris Administration’s America the Beautiful initiative by safeguarding this special place for years to come.”
In addition to developing a Monument management plan, NOAA Fisheries will undertake rulemaking later this year to incorporate the Monument boundaries and commercial fishing prohibition into the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act regulations in response to the Presidential proclamations. Consistent with Proclamation 9496, recreational fishing in the National Monument may continue.
The Department of the Interior recently issued two Secretary’s Orders (SO 3412 and SO 3284 Amendment 2) delegating management authority of several areas, including the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument, as units of the National Wildlife Refuge System to provide the comprehensive management intended in the Presidential Proclamations that established them.
Located 130 miles off the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument was established by President Obama in 2016, under the Antiquities Act, to protect and conserve its unique and pristine habitats, historic objects and features of high scientific interest for current and future generations of Americans. As the first marine national monument in the Atlantic, it is renowned for its rich and unique biodiversity, including deep-sea coral communities and concentrations of marine wildlife.
The draft Monument management plan, environmental assessment and planning updates can be found on the Monument management planning website. The public can submit written comments on the priorities and objectives described in the Monument’s proposed management plan and environmental assessment through Oct. 26, 2023 via the Federal eRulemaking Portal or by mail to: Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument, USFWS, 300 Westgate Center Drive, Hadley, MA 01035.
Following the 45-day public comment period, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and NOAA will consider comments and determine if a revision to the draft plan is necessary. The Monument’s management plan and environmental assessment are expected to be finalized in early 2024.