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Mystic Aquarium Campaigns for Marine National Monument Designation in Region

As Part of the Ocean Treasures Coalition

Mystic, Conn. (July 26, 2016): It’s like walking through Dr. Seuss’ garden. That is how Mystic Aquarium Senior Research Scientist Dr. Peter Auster describes the New England Coral Canyons and Seamounts, located 150 miles off the coast of Cape Cod.

For over 30 years, Dr. Auster has been working in the area that teems with forests of ancient corals, where undersea canyons are deeper than the Grand Canyon and seamounts – extinct underwater volcanoes – rival the size and majesty of the Rockies. These places are home to bizarre otherworldly fish and invertebrate species that thrive in the bitter cold and under the crushing pressure of the deep sea.  While the surface waters above support migrating tunas, sharks, dolphins, sea turtles and the endangered sperm whale.

In March, Dr. Auster, together with Dr. Scott Kraus of New England Aquarium, released a detailed scientific analysis of this area focused on its astounding biological diversity. Through the efforts of a coalition of top environmental groups, this scientific research is working its way to the POTUS with the goal of encouraging President Obama to designate our nation’s first Marine National Monument in the Atlantic Ocean.

Today, Mystic Aquarium is working diligently to rally public support of the campaign. An event on the Aquarium’s vastly popular Facebook page provides a link to an online petition. Accessible through the Aquarium’s website, there are also downloadable comment cards for adults and children alike.  A table has been set up in Mystic Aquarium’s Main Gallery for visitors to also support the movement.

“I’ve studied deep sea communities for more than two decades, and for more than 40 years have watched the degradation of undersea habitats due to fishing, climate change, development and more,” Dr. Auster explained. “I’ve also been privileged to lead and be part of multiple research expeditions to the New England Coral Canyons and Seamounts. These habitats are profoundly beautiful, otherworldly places that, unfortunately, are highly sensitive to disturbance”.

Under the authority of the Antiquities Act of 1906, the president may “declare by public proclamation” national monuments in order to set aside vulnerable federal lands for protection. In 2006 and 2009, President George W. Bush became the first president to designate a marine national monument, with four such areas designated to date, protecting millions of precious acres in the Pacific. As the U.S. controls the largest expanse of ocean in the world, President Bush set a wise precedent by establishing these “blue parks.”

“In 2014, President Obama strengthened this legacy by creating the largest fully protected marine reserve in the central Pacific Ocean,” Dr. Auster continued. “It is our hope that before he leaves office in January he makes a similar bold move for conservation here in the Atlantic.”

It is Mystic Aquarium’s hope to mobilize a large portion of their 700,000 annual visitors and their social fan base toward taking action in pursuit of National Monument designation for this important and vulnerable habitat.

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