Proposed Changes To National Monuments Draw Mixed Reactions From NE Fishermen, Environmentalists

Aug 25, 2017

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke’s recommendation to keep all 27 national monuments that were under federal review is drawing mixed reactions from New England environmentalists and fishermen.

President Donald Trump signed an executive order in April requiring Zinke to recommend how the monuments, which also include 5,000 square miles of underwater canyons and mountains off the New England coast, should be dealt with in the future.

Zinke’s deadline was Thursday.

Although no monument is recommended for removal, Zinke said unspecified changes could be in store for several of them.  That's raising anxiety for monument supporters like Marsha Donahue from Maine.

"It's like watching a cliffhanger movie, which I hate,” Donahue said. “It's like one minute everything's going to be okay and the next minute you're like (gasp)."

Environmentalists around the country were quick to criticize Zinke for his lack of transparency and for proposing to rollback safeguards for lands and waters under monument protection.

But Rhode Island and Massachusetts fishermen expressed a more positive response to Zinke’s review.

The Massachusetts Lobstermen’s Association and the Rhode Island Fishermen’s Alliance, two of several fishermen’s groups suing to undo the creation of the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument, said they hope the federal government will remove protections on areas where they harvest fish.

The groups claimed the monument designation, which is the first of its kind in the Atlantic Ocean, limits their ability to harvest in-demand catch like lobster, squid, and swordfish. 

Richard Fuka, executive director of the Rhode Island Fishermen’s Alliance, said he’s “extremely optimistic” they will be able to fish in the area again.

Beth Casoni, executive director for the Massachusetts Lobstermen’s Association, said she’d like the monument to be reduced to the size of a “postage stamp.” 

Maine reports come from the New England News Collaborative.