WASHINGTON — Creating the Atlantic Ocean’s first marine national monument is a needed response to dangerous climate change, oceanic dead zones and unsustainable fishing practices, President Obama said Thursday.

The new Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument consists of nearly 5,000 square miles of underwater canyons and mountains 130 miles off the New England coast. It’s the 27th time that Obama has created or enlarged a national monument.

“If we’re going to leave our children with oceans like the ones that were left to us, then we’re going to have to act and we’re going to have to act boldly,” Obama said at a State Department conference. More than 20 countries represented at the meeting were also announcing the creation of their own marine protected areas.

The White House said the designation will lead to a ban on commercial fishing, mining and drilling, though a seven-year exception will occur for the lobster and red crab industries. Others, such as whiting and squid harvesters, have 60 days to transition out. Recreational fishing will be allowed within the zone.

Supporters of the new monument say protecting large swaths of ocean from human stresses can sustain important species and reduce the toll of climate change. Fishermen worry it will become harder for them to earn a living.

“This is deplorable,” said Grant Moore, president of the Atlantic Offshore Lobstermen’s Association.

White House officials said the administration listened to industry’s concerns, and noted the monument is smaller than originally proposed and contains a transition period for companies. Obama said helping oceans become more resilient to climate change will help fishermen.

Jon Williams, president of the Atlantic Red Crab Company in New Bedford, Massachusetts, said his company will survive, but the changes designed to address some of the industry’s concerns don’t sway him about the merits of the monument.

“We’ve been fishing out there for 35 years,” Williams said. “It’s a big blow to us.”

In all, the Atlantic Ocean monument will include three underwater canyons deeper than the Grand Canyon and four underwater mountains. It is home to such protected species as the sperm, fin and sei whales, and Kemp’s ridley turtles.


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