President Obama is setting precedents by designating oceanic national monuments to slow down climate change.
President Obama announced the creation of the Atlantic Ocean’s first-ever national monument at the State Department conference last Thursday, saying, “We cannot truly protect our planet without protecting our oceans.” He addressed representatives from over 20 other countries, who responded by announcing the creation of their own protected areas in the ocean.
Climate change is rapidly becoming the world’s primary problem, yet many world leaders refuse to even acknowledge its prevalence or existence as they protect consumer and big business interests. Though there’s clearly more that can be done within the U.S. to slow down climate change, Obama is not one of the climate change deniers, and protecting the ocean could be a huge step forward for the environment.
Concerned about leaving the oceans for our children and grandchildren as it was left to current generations, Obama said, “we’re going to have to act and we’re going to have to act boldly.”
The Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument, which is 130 miles off the coast of New England, covers nearly 5,000 square miles of underwater canyons and mountains that house rare and endangered wildlife. The new monument will include three underwater canyons that are deeper than the Grand Canyon and will protect a variety of species, such as Kemp’s ridley turtles and sperm, fin, and sei whales.
The purpose of making this area a monument is because with the designation of the area comes restrictions to certain activities. The designation will lead to a ban on commercial fishing, mining, and drilling and harvesters will have 60 days to transition out of the area, with the exception of lobster and red crab industries that have 7 years. Recreational fishing will still be allowed.
President Obama said, “We’re helping make oceans more resilient to climate change. And this will help fishermen better understand the changes that are taking place that will affect their livelihood, and we’re doing it in a way that respects the fishing industry’s unique role in New England’s economy and history.”
The area that is being designated as a monument is projected to warm nearly three times faster than the global average, according to the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Warming oceans pose a huge threat to ecosystems and many species used commercially, such as lobsters, scallops, and salmon.
Opponents to the monument have said that it will adversely affect fishermen and industries that rely on the area for business, but organizations like NOAA have already committed to stepping forward to help fishermen make the transition. As President Obama has pointed out, helping oceans become more resilient and staving off the effects of climate change will help fishermen in the long run.
Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, who is a supporter of the monument, said it “will protect countless species and habitats from irreversible damage, advance key research, and support critical jobs that depend on healthy oceans.”
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