BOSTON — More than a quarter of state lawmakers wrote to President Donald Trump on Wednesday, urging him not to roll back protections for the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument.
None of Cape Ann’s representatives — Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr, and Reps. Ann-Margaret Ferrante and Brad Hill — were among the signers.
The lawmakers said those protections are needed for the area, about 130 miles off the coast of Cape Cod, that they say is home to a rich variety of ocean life including endangered species. President Barack Obama designated the 5,000 square-mile area as a monument in September 2016 under the Antiquities Act.
The legislators wrote to the letter in response to “several indications from the Trump Administration this year to reopen the Monument to commercial fishing operations,” according to the office of Rep. William “Smitty” Pignatelli, the House chairman of the Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture Committee.
Nine of the 38 current state senators and 46 of the 153 representatives signed the letter, which said the monument “does not occur in a major fishing ground” and opening it to commercial fishing would “not help remedy the nation’s seafood deficit.”
“It would be a grave mistake to allow this area to be governed by the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the federal fisheries law, rather than the Antiquities Act, which effectively conserves special places,” the letter said. “Such an action would result in harm to the monument’s special and vulnerable wildlife and would eliminate the only ocean ecosystems in the U.S. Atlantic protected from commercial extractive uses.”
Earlier this week fishing stakeholders failed in their court challenge of the use of the Antiquities Act to create the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts National Monument off the southern coast of New England. U.S. District Court Judge James E. Boasberg dismissed the federal lawsuit filed by the Massachusetts Lobstermen’s Association and other fishing interests contesting Obama’s use of the Antiquities Act to establish the monument.
The Trump administration chose to defend Obama’s use of the Antiquities Act in court at the same time it is considering whether to follow the recommendation from Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to reopen the area of the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts National Monument to commercial fishing.
Beth Casoni at the Massachusetts Lobstermen’s Association said they’ll continue to fight the fishing restrictions that were imposed within the monument. Bonnie Brady at the Long Island Commercial Fishing Association said the ruling sets a “scary precedent” because conceivably any president could create another monument in their fishing areas.
Material from State House News Service staffer Katie Lannan and the Associated Press was used in this report.