NORTHEAST CANYONS AND SEAMOUNTS MARINE NATIONAL MONUMENT
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BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
For generations, communities and families have relied on the waters of the northwest Atlantic Ocean and have told of their wonders. Throughout New England, the maritime trades, and especially fishing, have supported a vibrant way of life, with deep cultural roots and a strong connection to the health of the ocean and the bounty it provides. Over the past several decades, the Nation has made great strides in its stewardship of the ocean, but the ocean faces new threats from varied uses, climate change, and related impacts. Through exploration, we continue to make new discoveries and improve our understanding of ocean ecosystems. In these waters, the Atlantic Ocean meets the continental shelf in a region of great abundance and diversity as well as stark geological relief. The waters are home to many species of deep-sea corals, fish, whales and other marine mammals. Three submarine canyons and, beyond them, four undersea mountains lie in the waters approximately 130 miles southeast of Cape Cod. This area (the canyon and seamount area) includes unique ecological resources that have long been the subject of scientific interest.
The canyon and seamount area, which will constitute the monument as set forth in this proclamation, is composed of two units, which showcase two distinct geological features that support vulnerable ecological communities. The Canyons Unit includes three underwater canyons — Oceanographer, Gilbert, and Lydonia — and covers approximately 941 square miles. The Seamounts Unit includes four seamounts — Bear, Mytilus, Physalia, and Retriever — and encompasses 3,972 square miles. The canyon and seamount area includes the waters and submerged lands within the coordinates included in the accompanying map. The canyon and seamount area contains objects of historic and scientific interest that are situated upon lands owned or controlled by the Federal Government. These objects are the canyons and seamounts themselves, and the natural resources and ecosystems in and around them.
The canyons start at the edge of the geological continental shelf and drop from 200 meters to thousands of meters deep. The seamounts are farther off shore, at the start of the New England Seamount chain, rising thousands of meters from the ocean floor. These canyons and seamounts are home to at least 54 species of deep-sea corals, which live at depths of at least 3,900 meters below the sea surface. The corals, together with other structure-forming fauna such as sponges and anemones, create a foundation for vibrant deep-sea ecosystems, providing food, spawning habitat, and shelter for an array of fish and invertebrate species. These habitats are extremely sensitive to disturbance from extractive activities.
Because of the steep slopes of the canyons and seamounts, oceanographic currents that encounter them create localized eddies and result in upwelling. Currents lift nutrients, like nitrates and phosphates, critical to the growth of phytoplankton from the deep to sunlit surface waters. These nutrients fuel an eruption of phytoplankton and zooplankton that form the base of the food chain. Aggregations of plankton draw large schools of small fish and then larger animals that prey on these fish, such as whales, sharks, tunas, and seabirds. Together the geology, currents, and productivity create diverse and vibrant ecosystems.