New England Aquarium Applauds Return of Ocean Environmental Protections

Aerial survey photo from the monument of a Blue Whale. Courtesy of New England Aquarium.

HYANNIS – Officials from the New England Aquarium have applauded President Joe Biden’s restoration of protections for national conservation efforts like the Seamounts Marine National Monument. 

The aquarium’s President and CEO Vikki Spruill was in attendance at the White House announcement ceremony Friday.

She said restoring the protections for nearly 5,000 square miles of underwater sanctuary 130 miles southeast of Cape Cod is a vital move towards combating climate change. 

“We have been in this era of climate change and impacts on our planet. I don’t think people appreciate that a third of the carbon and other gases that we pump into the atmosphere are absorbed by the ocean. So we need to protect the biodiversity of the ocean so that it can help do its job as it becomes sort of this sink for all the carbon we’re putting out into the atmosphere,” said Spruill. 

Spruill said that the effort is part of Biden’s goal to conserve 30 percent of U.S. lands and waters by 2030, a goal that the New England Aquarium also supports.

According to Orla O’Brien, Associate Scientist with the Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life at the aquarium, the monument area is home to a variety of marine wildlife including manta rays, dolphins and even blue whales.

“With our aerial survey data and other data, we’ve been going further to prove what a special area this is to protect and what a unique area it is in terms of biodiversity,” said O’Brien.

“Compared to other areas in the Atlantic Ocean along the coast that are the same size, we’re seeing that the monument has much more diversity in terms of marine animals than these other areas. We really picked a good place to protect, and myself and the rest of my colleagues at the aquarium are really excited that protections have been reinstated.”

Though many marine animals travel through wide patches of territory around the Atlantic Ocean, the conserved area ensures that there is always a place these animals can count on for food production and for rearing their young, according to O’Brien.

As the effects of climate change become more pronounced, Spruill said that she is hopeful she can open up and maintain conversations between regional conservation groups and lawmakers on how to best mitigate the impacts of warming oceans. 

About Grady Culhane

Grady Culhane is a Cape Cod native currently living in Eastham. He studied media communications at Cape Cod Community College and joined the News Center in 2019.
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