Last week, President Donald Trump allowed commercial fishing to resume at the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument by lifting Proclamation 9496—which was established in 2016 by then-President Barack Obama to protect approximately 4,913 square miles of water and submerged lands along the New England coast. The monument—the first national marine monument in the Atlantic Ocean—contains deep-sea canyons and underwater mountains that are home to fragile marine life, rare corals, sea turtles, whales, and native species. Obama established the commercial fishing ban—which excluded lobster and crab fishing but aimed to phase them out—to protect the diverse ecosystems in the region. With commercial fishing returning to the monument under Trump’s reversal of the ban, boats will be allowed to use trawls—large nets that trap sea life indiscriminately (the result of which is known as “bycatch”), leading to the deaths of endangered species and plastic pollution.  

“We’re gonna solve your fishing problem,” Trump said, according to National Geographic, during a meeting in Maine with fishermen. Basically, they took away your livelihood. It’s ridiculous. You’re so lucky I’m president.” 

Environmental groups are preparing to take legal action against the Trump administration to protect marine monuments and sea life. “A significant change to the monument or its protections—such as allowing commercial fishing—must be done by Congress, not by the president,” Brad Sewell, senior director of Oceans for the Natural Resources Defense Council, said. “The Antiquities Act gives the president power to protect special areas for future generations, not the opposite power, to abolish those protections. We are prepared to sue the Trump administration.”

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