Seals on the Rocks
Each year Mystic Aquarium rescues and rehabilitates approximately 100 marine mammals. Most are seals, but we also work with whales and dolphins – and the occasional sea turtle – when they strand on land or run into trouble in the ocean. Last year, as many of you may recall, we took care of a manatee that was rescued off the coast of Chatham.
The animal rescue and rehabilitation program, led by Janelle Schuh, is core to Mystic Aquarium’s mission. Marine mammals are protected under federal law and there are strict regulations regarding how humans may interact with them. Mystic Aquarium is designated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to officially respond to and handle any marine mammal stranding or other emergency along the coastlines of Connecticut and Rhode Island.
Last Friday evening we celebrated “Seals on the Rocks” our annual event to raise awareness and funding for the program. Special thanks to our development team including Roz Gilhuly, Hannah Stewart, Lydia Shell and Marie Denoia for organizing the event. This year’s theme was Tapas-n-Taps, and featured many local breweries. Here are some images from the evening:
New England Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument
As I write this I am in Washington, DC for meetings with the Secretaries of Commerce and Interior regarding the New England Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument.
President Trump has ordered a review of many Monuments, including this one, established by preceding presidents under the Antiquities Act. It is important to stress that he has asked for a review, replete with public comments and fresh analysis regarding certain Monuments.
In my meetings I have found very little intellectual disagreement with the rationale for protecting the New England Canyons and Seamounts in some way. However, there are political challenges to its designation as a National Monument. Some argue that there was not fair process as there would be for designation of a national park or marine sanctuary which require years of public input and Congressional action. Others, particularly the commercial fishing community, argue that the designation is unnecessary and may lead to encroachment on their livelihoods.
Mystic Aquarium has been working through the designation process, and now the review process, to articulate scientific knowledge about the Monument area. Senior Scientist, Dr. Peter Auster has drawn upon many years of research to give federal officials in the Obama and Trump administrations a better understanding of this remarkable area of the Atlantic Ocean.
The review process by the Trump Administration encourages public comment. Dr. Auster, in collaboration with Dr. Scott Kraus of New England Aquarium, submitted a detailed explanation of the scientific merits of protecting the New England Canyons and Seamounts. Here are excerpts from that submission, which I highlighted for the executives I was meeting with:
Dr. Auster and Dr. Krauss also note the incredible number of marine mammals that feed and breed in the designated area. They write: “The marine mammal occurrence in the monument area is remarkably high in both abundance and diversity…hosting at least 10 dolphin species, 7 large whale species, and 6 medium whale species. In this latter group, the monument is home to the champion divers of the planet, the beaked whales…”
Here are some images included in their letter:
Hopefully the review process, led by Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke, will keep the designation intact. There is, in fact, considerable disagreement among legal experts, as to whether an incumbent president has the right to remove designations under the Antiquities Act made by previous presidents.
Marine National Monument Exhibit
With special thanks to Director of Exhibits, Larry Warner and his team including Ron Perry and Jack York, we are, this very week, opening a photographic exhibit on the New England Canyons and Seamounts National Marine Monument. I invite you to come and see this spectacular display of some of the most remarkable sea life, ancient coral reefs and canyons anywhere in the world.
These treasures happen to be right here in New England, perfectly preserved. Come take a look and become part of the national discussion on whether the designated area is, in fact, worth our efforts to protect and conserve.
See you all soon!
Stevi Bramich | September 21st, 2017