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Thursday, July 28, 2016

We love the ocean and want it protected

Ocean Staters View Marine Protections as Personally Important
Protect New England's Ocean Treasures

Rhode Island is called the "Ocean State” - and with good reason.

A new poll found that four out of five Rhode Islanders favored permanent protection for special places in the ocean. And 85 percent of those polled said a healthy ocean is important to them personally.

According to the findings of the Edge Research poll, 78 percent of residents strongly support protections for special places such as deep-sea canyons, extinct volcanoes and deep-water corals found in the New England Coral Canyons and Seamounts area.

The results are no surprise to state Representative Arthur Handy (D-18).

"Historically, the ocean and the coastline have just been vital to our state,” Handy said. "That area that we're talking about is one of the most diverse for things like marine mammals: whales, dolphins, porpoises. It's also one of the last areas that have a lot of these things, certainly up in our part of the Atlantic."

A group of conservation and education organizations proposed the president protect an area far off the Rhode Island coast, which contains five deep, coral-filled canyons and four seamounts that rise as much as 7,000 feet above the ocean floor.

The poll also surveyed Massachusetts residents and found similar bipartisan support.

The survey was commissioned by the Protect New England's Ocean Treasures Coalition, which includes the Pew Charitable Trusts.

Peter Baker, the Northeast director of ocean conservation for Pew, said it's especially noteworthy that, when told protections would impact commercial activity, those polled still expressed strong support.
People understand the need to preserve the area for future generations, he contended.

"If humans go in and drill or mine or use destructive fishing gear they can destroy these corals in a matter of minutes that have taken hundreds of years to grow,” Baker said. "These corals support entire ecosystems of animals and wildlife."

According to Meg Kerr, senior director of policy with the Audubon Society of Rhode Island, protections such as national monument designation would not only support existing ecosystems, but also provide refuge areas as the environment changes.

"Scientists need to have these areas to study and look at the impacts of climate change,” Kerr said, "and also for important species to have those impact habitats protected so we can be sure that the species can thrive as the oceans change in the future."

President Obama is considering designating New England's Coral Canyons and Seamounts as the only marine national monument along the Atlantic coast.

But last week, the Republican-led House passed an amendment that would limit the president's power to create national monuments - an amendment which Obama has pledged to veto.

To read the full report, click here.
Support for this reporting was provided by The Pew Charitable Trusts.