NEW BEDFORD — As conservation groups celebrate the White House's restoration last week of a marine conservation area off the Cape Cod coast, one New Bedford fishing industry insider called the move "ridiculous" and an "abuse of power."

New Bedford Seafood Consulting Executive Director and former scallop fisherman Jim Kendall spoke out after President Joe Biden announced on Thursday the restoration of the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument.

"How many people are gonna visit that national monument?" he asked jokingly.

The monument is the first of its kind off the coast of the continental U.S.

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Environmental protections around the area were stripped by former president Donald Trump after former president Barack Obama created the marine conservation area in 2016.

The monument — located off the edge of Georges Bank about 130 miles east of Cape Cod — is about the size of Connecticut and covers three undersea canyons and four sea mountains.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Resources Defense Council, Northeast Canyons and Seamounts contains a rich diversity of marine life.

A red coral in the national monument's Oceanographer Canyon. Courtesy NOAA.gov

The NRDC website notes that the monument's canyons are deeper than the Grand Canyon, and its mountains are taller from base to tip than anything east of the Rockies.

Changes in ocean currents around the undersea canyons and seamounts support a wide variety of corals, fish, and other marine life, including seabirds like the Atlantic puffin.

 

Since the protections were removed, commercial fishermen have been using the area mostly for lobster and red crab fishing, which are relatively light uses, according to Kendall.

Under the newly restored protections, only lobster and red crab fishing is allowed through 2023 — and will be prohibited entirely after that.

But Kendall said that type of fishing is "benign," noting that no bottom fishing or drag nets are used — just lobster and crab pots, which he said don't cause any permanent harm to the environment.

"It's very lightly fished," he said.

Kendall went on to note that while fishermen know that protections are "great" when and where they're needed, they shouldn't be applied "needlessly," which he said is the case here.

"It's an abuse of power," he said, calling the move "yet another rule heaped upon the fishing industry."

He added, "It's ridiculous!"

Recreational fishing will still be allowed within the monument boundaries.

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