On behalf of future marine conservationists, I thank President Obama for his work in protecting our oceans now and for generations to come by designating the Northeast Canyons and Seamount Marine National Monument. This monument is particularly special as it is the first marine monument in the Atlantic Ocean; the same waters that I have been lucky enough to grow up on and explore to investigate the crabs, birds, snails and fish that all call it home. Within my lifetime I have seen species, such as sea stars, become fewer and fewer which sparked my passion for marine life. As I became older and learned more, I realized how much I (we!) didn’t know about our marine environments. This makes me excited because of the future opportunities for me to discover new things that no one else has seen before and develop new ways to conserve our oceans for those who come after me. The designation of this monument is the first step to long- term conservation of animal populations, thriving ecosystems, and the health of our oceans!
Marine protected areas help to preserve species that we are already losing, learn more about ones we are just discovering and find ways to maintain ecosystems worldwide. The corals protected by this area have taken years, maybe even centuries to form and provide homes to species found nowhere else in the world. However, a single event, particularly those caused by humans, can destroy these fragile ecosystems in minutes and all of the knowledge we can gain will be lost forever. Without our protection from human pressures, we would never have an opportunity to study these ecosystems in their natural state. The lessons we learn from this area can help us better our understanding of how our oceans and their inhabitants live and act. Then, the knowledge gained from our New England waters can be transferred to other areas in the world, making a global conservation impact.
Following a summer experience of watching whales in the Atlantic Ocean, one of the most overwhelming lessons I learned was that there are still species of whales that we haven’t seen alive! If there are large mammals that haven’t even been seen, how can we protect the smaller species that are completely unknown? Marine protected areas can serve as a safe haven for smaller fish and prey which provide food for larger predators (including us!). With healthy populations and ecosystems, we can learn more about how the oceans work as a whole. After first seeing the post of the designation on Mystic Aquarium’s Instagram, my friends and I have been inspired and are excited to continue this legacy of conserving and discovering our oceans!
Hannah is a 15 year old docent and member of Mystic Aquarium’s Youth Conservation Corp.