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Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument FAQs

Updated January 6, 2017

On September 15, President Obama designated the first marine national monument in the Atlantic Ocean, the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument, using his authority under the Antiquities Act of 1906.

We are providing this document to help answer some immediate questions. We will update this FAQ regularly.  

What does the monument mean for fishermen?

Commercial fishing and other resource extraction activities are prohibited within the monument boundaries. A 60-day transition period, which ended on November 14, was in effect for all commercial fisheries. The red crab and the American lobster  pot and trap fisheries will continue under existing permits for up to seven years.  

Where is the Monument?

The monument includes two distinct areas, one that covers three canyons, and one that covers four seamounts. These are located about 130 miles east-southeast of Cape Cod, and cover a total area of more than 4,900 square miles, about the size of Connecticut, or slightly larger than Yellowstone National Park. We will post GIS layers of the monument as soon as they are available. Coordinates below:

What Monument resources are protected under the proclamation?

The entire ecosystem is a monument resource. The proclamation states: “The canyon and seamount area includes the waters and submerged lands within the coordinates included in the accompanying map. The canyon and seamount area contains objects of historic and scientific interest that are situated upon lands owned or controlled by the Federal government. These objects are the canyons and seamounts themselves, and the natural resources and ecosystems in and around them.”

The prohibitions include: “Removing, moving, taking, harvesting, possessing, injuring, disturbing, or damaging, or attempting to remove, move, take, harvest, possess, injure, disturb, or damage, any living or nonliving Monument resource, except as provided under regulated activities below.

What fisheries reported landings from the Monument areas according to NOAA Fisheries Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office (GARFO) Vessel Trip Reports and Atlantic Highly Migratory Species (HMS) Logbooks?

We have compiled a table. Note that the most refined area information required on the vessel trip report is the latitude/longitude within each statistical reporting area that corresponds to the majority of the fishing effort. This is the best information available, but, does not correspond to all of the fishing activity within our defined statistical reporting areas.

Commercial Fishing

Can I fish there now?

As of 12:01am on November 14, 2016, commercial fishermen, except for fisheries noted below, may not fish in the Monument area. Recreational fisheries, as well as commercial American lobster and red crab pot and trap fisheries, may continue fishing in the Monument area. Any commercial gear in the area – except for red crab and lobster gear – needed to be removed by 12:01 am November 14.

Will any new commercial red crab and lobster permits be required to fish in the Monument area?

The proclamation does not change existing commercial red crab and lobster permits. The proclamation states that “Commercial fishing for red crab and American lobster for a period of not more than 7 years from the date of this proclamation, in accordance with applicable fishery management plans and other regulations, and under permits in effect on the date of this proclamation. After 7 years, red crab and American lobster commercial fishing is prohibited in the monument.”

If I am fishing for lobster in the Monument, may I keep my Jonah crab bycatch?

Under current practice in the region, lobster fishermen in this fishery may retain Jonah crab as bycatch. During the next year, implementing fishery regulations for the Monument will be developed where this issue will be more fully evaluated and addressed. In the interim, NOAA and FWS, as co-managers of the Monument, will permit the lobster fishermen’s current practice of retaining Jonah crab bycatch to continue in order to avoid unnecessary disruption. 

What happens if a lobster or red crab permit holder sells a vessel or transfers his or her permit through the vessel replacement process?

The proclamation allows lobster and red crab fishing for up to 7 years “in accordance with applicable fishery management plans and other regulations, and under permits in effect on the date of this proclamation.” The current management measures allow permits to be conveyed when a vessel is sold or replaced. Therefore, fishing under a transferred permit would be allowed until the 7 years is over, then all commercial fishing must stop.

Are there transit provisions for commercial fishing vessels to transit through the area?

Yes, after November 14, commercial fishermen may transit through the area if fishing gear is stowed and not available for immediate use during passage without interruption through the monument.

Will there be any form of compensation to fishermen displaced by the Monument?

From the White House Fact Sheet: “The Administration is committed to continue addressing economic impacts on northeast fisheries, building on our ongoing efforts to help New England fisherman who have faced hardships due to changing stock abundance. Specifically, NOAA is committed to working with Congress to fully utilize existing programs, including those that support:

NOAA will also be engaging with stakeholders in the region to discuss grant programs that may be relevant including Bycatch Reduction and Engineering Program, the Fisheries Innovation Fund, Electronic Monitoring and Reporting Grants, and the Saltonstall-Kennedy Grant Program. And the Administration will be engaging with other stakeholders to discuss efforts to help support a strong and resilient sustainable fishery in the northeast region.”

Recreational Fishing

Is all recreational fishing still allowed in the Monument?

The proclamation provides that recreational fishing may be permitted in the Monument if the Secretary concludes that such activity is consistent with the care and management of the objects within the monument. Currently, the NOAA Fisheries Greater Atlantic and Southeast Regions include for-hire and charter vessels within the definition of recreational fishermen for management purposes. The Atlantic HMS Management Division includes private vessels, charter vessels, and headboat vessels within the definition of recreational fishermen for management purposes. Any change to the scope and extent of permitted recreational fishing activities will be determined in implementing regulations with plenty of notice to fishermen about any changes.

Will any new recreational fishing permits be required to fish in the Monument area?

At this time, if you have a recreational permit you can continue to fish under current recreational fishing rules/regulations, including permit requirements. The proclamation states that recreational fishing may be continued in the Monument,  “… if the Secretary concludes that such activity is consistent with the care and management of the objects within the monument. The scope and extent of permitted recreational fishing activities will be determined as soon as practicable.” New regulations related to recreational fishing could in the future occur under future Monument implementing regulations.

Will recreational fishermen be allowed to anchor while in this area?

No, regular anchors are prohibited. The Proclamation states that “drilling into, anchoring, dredging, or otherwise altering the submerged lands” is a prohibited activity. However, at this time, the use of sea anchors (typically an object dragged behind the vessel in the water column to stabilize a vessel’s drift) are allowed as they do not anchor the vessel nor do they alter submerged lands. Any change to the scope and extent of permitted recreational fishing activities will be determined in implementing regulations.

Will recreational fishermen still be allowed to drag anchors through this area?

No. Dragging of anchors is prohibited.

Scientific Research

Can NOAA Fisheries or other NOAA research occur in the monument? 

The proclamation permits scientific exploration and research that is consistent with the care and management of the Monument resources. We are still developing a permitting process for these types of activities.

Does the NOAA Fisheries bottom trawl survey operate in the Monument area? And will it continue?

Survey stations are randomly generated within standardized areas defined by depth and latitude throughout U.S. waters off the Northeast. The surveys do not take place on the Seamounts. In the Canyons, we have averaged about 3 stations per survey in the area over the last 10 years. Since 2005, we have excluded portions of Lydonia and Oceanographer Canyons when survey stations are generated. Those excluded areas were designated as habitat closed areas by the regional fishery management councils to protect essential fish habitat and structured sea life such as corals. Going forward, NOAA will need to make a finding as to whether the survey is consistent with the care and management of the monument resources.

How does the survey affect Monument resources? 

The survey captures marine species defined as Monument resources. The volume of catches in this region is generally fairly low. In the last 10 surveys the species most frequently caught in the Monument were longfin squid, red hake, fourspot flounder, and gulf stream flounder. The survey gear operates on and near the ocean floor and during a tow it can disturb the bottom or sea life that lives there.

Are organizations outside of NOAA allowed to conduct research in the area?

Yes. The proclamation states that the Secretaries may permit “Research and scientific exploration designed to further understanding of monument resources and qualities or knowledge of the North Atlantic Ocean ecosystem and resources.” The permitting process will be developed.

Management

Who will manage the monument?

The Department of Commerce and the Department of the Interior share management responsibility for the monument. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is responsible for managing activities and species within the monument under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Marine Mammal Protection Act, and any other applicable Department of Commerce legal authorities. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is responsible for managing activities and species under the National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act as amended, the Refuge Recreation Act, the Endangered Species Act, Public Law 98-532, and Executive Order 6166 of June 10, 1933. The two agencies are working cooperatively on management.

The proclamation gives us three years to prepare a joint management plan. Some implementing regulations related to prohibited and restricted activities may be issued prior to the completion of the management plan.

When will you publish regulations on the monument?  

We are working closely with our counterparts at the New England and Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Councils and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission to develop an approach and a timeline.

Will the Councils be involved in management of the Monument resources, and if so, how and when?

Yes, NOAA is looks forward to working with the Councils, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, and the Atlantic HMS Advisory Panel on implementing regulations. Fisheries management in the monument will be implemented under the provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act), the Atlantic Coastal Fisheries Cooperative Management Act (Atlantic Coastal Act), and other relevant statutes. Discussions with the New England and Mid-Atlantic Councils and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission began at the Northeast Region Coordinating Council meeting in mid-October. Discussions with the Atlantic HMS Advisory Panel will start during the Spring 2017 meeting. We expect that regulations will be implemented as needed under the respective fishery management plans and other processes. The South Atlantic Council will also be consulted and updated as needed/appropriate. Additionally, NOAA and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service  have begun discussions regarding preparation of a monument management plan, which we are required to develop over the next three years.

Will there be National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review of any management plan, and if so, via an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) or Environmental Assessment (EA)?

Yes, a monument management plan will be prepared identifying how the Secretaries will jointly manage the Monument. The management plan will be subject to NEPA requirements. The level of NEPA analysis will be determined based on an initial assessment of environmental impacts. Any implementing regulations for the Monument’s management plan, fishery regulations, or other resource management measures are subject to NEPA requirements.

General Questions

What is the difference between a National Marine Sanctuary and a Marine National Monument?

Both Marine National Monuments and National Marine Sanctuaries are marine protected areas--areas of seas, oceans, estuaries or large lakes set aside with limits on certain human activity  for a conservation purpose, typically to protect natural or cultural resources.   Monuments and Sanctuaries are established under different legal authorities, with different requirements for designation and possibly different conditions for protecting the resources and permitted human uses. NOAA manages 13 Marine Sanctuaries established under the Marine Sanctuaries Act, and has a role in management of five marine national monuments established under the Antiquities Act (Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, Marianas Trench Marine National Monument, Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument, Rose Atoll Marine National Monument, and Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument).  In some instances, a marine national monument may be given an additional layer of protection by designation as a marine sanctuary. 

What is the difference between a Marine Protected Area and a Monument?

A Marine National Monument is a type of Marine Protected Area designated by Presidential Proclamation. Marine protected areas (MPAs) in the U.S. come in a variety of forms and are established and managed by all levels of government.  

Where can I find out more about the monument?

The Proclamation, Press Release, and Fact Sheet produced by the White House are all available online.