Futurity

Axing protection for undersea monuments could spell disaster

Ending protection for three marine national monuments could mean massive ecological destruction, warn experts.

The Trump administration is considering rolling back federal protections for a number of national monuments, a move many marine experts disagree with.

While most monuments are on land and relatively accessible, three are deep below the ocean’s surface and many miles from the mainland: the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument and the Rose Atoll Marine National Monument, both in the central Pacific Ocean, and the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument off the coast of New England.

Most people will never explore the canyons and reefs of these watery realms, but their value is hard to overestimate, according to scientists with years of experience exploring and studying these and adjacent areas.

measuring a gray reef shark
Biology graduate student Tim White and and Kosta Stamoulis of the University of Hawaii track a gray reef shark within the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument. (Credit: Palmyra Atoll Research Consortium via Stanford)

The Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment spoke with marine experts Rob Dunbar, Fiorenza Micheli, Stephen Palumbi, and Tim White about potential impacts from a loss of protections, including the resumption of commercial fishing in currently off-limits areas. Dunbar is a professor in the School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences at Stanford University. Micheli and Palumbi are both professors of marine science at the university’s Hopkins Marine Station. White is a doctoral student in biology.

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