A United States appeal court on December 27 reportedly upheld a decision by former President Barack Obama to designate a section of submarine land off New England coast as a national monument. According to reports, groups representing fishermen, lobstermen and crabbers contended the designation of the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument in 2016 as it imposed restrictions on where they could fish. The court reportedly threw out challenges to Obama's authority to designate the monument under the Antiquities Act and also dismissed a challenge that argued that the act applies only to dry land, not submarine land.
The monument was created to protect approximately 5,000 square miles of offshore land off the New England coast. The court further rejected arguments that the area designated by the former US President is not territory controlled by the US even though it lies within the country's 200-mile economic zone. According to international media reports, many environmental groups also called on the dismissal as they believe that the designated monument is an important fishing area for seabirds, including Atlantic puffins, which live off the coast of Maine.
Kate Desormeau, senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in a statement on the protected area, “As one of America's very first national monuments, the Grand Canyon, the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts is a natural treasure”.
She further also added, “It provides habitat for a wide range of species, from endangered whales to Atlantic puffins to centuries-old deep-sea corals. Today's decision affirms that presidents have the authority to protect marine areas like this for the benefit of current and future generations. Preserving ocean areas like this one will be absolutely key to ensuring the resilience of our oceans in a changing climate”.
The Conservative Law Foundation also supported the decision as they reportedly said that it will help protect the area from the threats such as oil drilling or industrial fishing. In a statement, CLF said that the decision is a clear victory for the oceans and for the Atlantic's only marine national monument. They further also said that the safeguarding the Northeast Canyons and seamounts ensure that the authorities are leaving a proud legacy for the people of New England.