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Mystic Aquarium to Spark Waves of Change in Ocean Protection on World Ocean Day

Activities Kick-Off Summer Campaign for National Monument Designation

Mystic, CT (June 8, 2016): Back in March, after years of hard work, Dr. Peter Auster of Mystic Aquarium and Dr. Scott Kraus of New England Aquarium released a wide-ranging scientific analysis of areas proposed for permanent protection as a national monument including New England submarine canyons and seamounts. The analysis provided new context for understanding the diverse and sometimes unusual habitats and species that make these areas so remarkable.

Dr. Peter Auster’s work has been instrumental as the community, collectively called “Protect New England’s Ocean Treasures”, to which Mystic Aquarium is a part, strives for the creation of a marine national monument in New England waters through the Obama Administration.

Ocean conservation groups are planning online and local activities on World Oceans Day to raise awareness for this ocean issues. This Wednesday will kick-off Mystic Aquarium’s summer campaign to “Protect New England’s Ocean Treasures”.

Today, Mystic Aquarium will take to social media with the goal of educating the public to this movement and its importance. This will include participation in a “thunderclap”, the first-ever crowd-speaking platform that helps people be heard by using a collective voice for a single message. Information on how the public can participate is available on Mystic Aquarium’s Facebook page.

More hands-on activities will take place on Saturday, June 11 when Mystic Aquarium formally celebrates World Oceans Day. Adults and children can sign a comment card that will be submitted to the Obama Administration and learn more about the ongoing campaign. Children can also participate by enjoying a fun coloring activity and hands-on learning.

The New England Coral Canyons and Seamounts area is a fragile and vulnerable biodiversity hotspot and a place of incalculable beauty and scientific interest.

For over a century, our country has set aside important natural and cultural places for long-term protection as national parks, monuments, wildlife refuges, wilderness areas, and historic sites, among other designation. These places allow people to see and study diverse wildlife, stunning landscapes, and historically significant landmarks. The ocean is also an important part of our national ecological and cultural heritage, and home to unique places worthy of protection. These areas generate so many benefits to U.S. citizens – we derive economic prosperity, environmental health, and recreational pleasure from the ocean.

In U.S. Atlantic waters, there are no areas fully protected in perpetuity from human activity. But 150 miles off the coast of Rhode Island lay a series of deep underwater canyons and tall undersea mountains – extinct volcanoes – that are home to a diversity of wildlife. Ancient, fragile corals form forests in the canyons and on seamounts that shelter myriad other species. Whales, dolphins, tuna, and seabirds feed in the water above. This area has been identified by marine scientists as some of the most important, and vulnerable, habitats in the ocean off New England – and it is a prime candidate for permanent protection as a marine national monument.

A Marine National Monument designation for the New England Coral Canyons and Seamounts will afford these areas permanent protection from all commercial extractive activities in order to save vulnerable species and ensure a healthy ocean for future generations. Permanently protecting New England’s ocean treasures will ensure protection for diverse species; the region’s most important marine species find refuge in the deep-sea communities of the canyons and seamounts. Permanent protection of these areas will also preserve them as thriving biodiversity hotpots.

Research results indicate that these areas represent the best remaining example of undisturbed ecosystems, making it vital to scientific research, especially in the face of climate change. New species continue to be discovered in the depths of the canyons and seamounts, and research into this deep-sea ecosystem is yielding important insights into how this unique part of the ocean functions. Finally, these areas support a vast array of marine mammals and seabirds, sustaining the tourism that supports our New England economy. When habitat is protected, populations of fish can spill over to other areas, improving the long-term health of our local fishing industry.

The ocean conservation activities on Saturday, June 11, 2016 will also include the “Better Bag Challenge”. Guests are encouraged to recycle plastic shopping bags to receive a Big Y reusable bag (while supplies last). Shoppers checking out at Big Y in Mystic using any reusable bag will receive a discount offer to Mystic Aquarium.

Showing the lighter side of ocean conservation, Mystic Aquarium will also be hosting two stroller parades (11am and 1pm) where families will ‘march’ through the outdoor exhibits (starting in our Ocean Planet Pavilion) showing off their decked out strollers featuring marine life décor. Judges will hand out prizes to the most unique strollers at three locations in route. The grand prize for each parade will be this brand new Cosatto Supa Big Fish Stroller. Kids are invited to get their hands dirty at the Sea School Green from 11am – 1pm, making mud pies and castles and enjoying finger painting with mud to learn how every day actions can impact the ocean planet.

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