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Environment and Outdoors

Federal Lawsuit Aims To Keep Protections For National Monument Off Cape Cod

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AP File
Corals on Mytilus Seamount off the coast of New England in the North Atlantic Ocean. seen during the Northeast U.S. Canyons Expedition 2013.

A coalition of regional and national conservation groups is filing a federal lawsuit against the Trump Administration over the recent decision to roll back protections for the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument off Cape Cod.

Former President Obama created the monument in 2016 which barred most fishing activities in a 5000 square-mile area. The conservation groups say only Congress has the authority to undo the Monument's protections.

Sean Mahoney of the Conservation Law Foundation says that while Trump and the fishing industry are focused on maintaining access to fishing grounds, the Antiquities Act that allowed the Monument's creation has larger goals: "preserving and protecting scientific cultural and historical and habitat of value to all of the American people."

Meanwhile a federal panel that manages the region's fisheries says Trump's action still retains pre-Obama protections for the seamounts and that a pending new rule will add to those.

The New England Fisheries Management Council says fishing will be restricted or barred in more than 90 percent of the area. Conservationists say the council has a poor record managing the area's fisheries, and could change or weaken the protections at any time.