Last week President Barack Obama designated 4,913 square miles off the coast of New England as a new marine national monument, creating the first fully protected area in the U.S. portion of the Atlantic Ocean.
Located along the continental shelf about 130 miles southeast of Cape Cod, the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument encompasses huge underwater chasms and towering peaks rising up to 7,000 feet from the ocean floor. The site is inhabited by coral, sharks, sea turtles, sperm whales, and other deep-sea creatures.
Several fishing groups opposed the president's move, arguing that the protected waters would have a negative impact on their efforts to catch mackerel, lobster, red crab, and other species nearby.
Proponents say, however, that recreational fishing can continue around the monument; it's only seabed mining and other extractive activities—which research indicates can harm vulnerable deep-sea life—that will be banned.