The Rev. Andrew G. George, pastor of the Church of the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Parish of Greater Providence, led a Blessing of Waters ceremony on March 16, 2016 outside the Providence headquarters of Save The Bay to complete an awareness building event on the proposed Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine Monument. (photo courtesy of the Warwick Beacon.)
The Northeast Canyons and Seamounts National Marine Monument off the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island is under treat to be downsized or eliminated as Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is advising President Donald Trump. This was a monument that Interfaith Oceans pushed for formation, along with many partners, including Creation Justice Ministries (a coalition of Christian denominations), the Pew Charitable Trust, the Rhode Island Council of Churches, the National Resources Defense Council, the Conservation Law Foundation, and NOAA. So we now we have the mission to try to save this marine protected area.
Voice your concerns to prevent the change of status, as Reverend Donald Anderson of Providence, RI, did this summer and so many others did when the public comment period was open. Our partner, Creation Justice Ministries, is spearheading the #SaveOceanTreasures campaign.
Marine sanctuaries serve as underwater “Noah’s Arks” to protect species that are overfished and under threat from oil drilling and mining and other damage. Interfaith Oceans partnered with Creation Justice Ministries of the United Church of Christ, the Pew Charitable Trust, Catholic Ecology, and the Rhode Island Council of Churches to host a teach-in/pray-in on the protection of the unique cold-water coral reefs and canyons off the coast of Rhode Island. In September, President Obama signed it into reality under the powers of Antiquity Act, which allows the preservation of unique cultural and ecological treasures.
The monument area includes canyons deeper than the Grand Canyon, and seamounts nearly as tall as the Rocky Mountains. This unique underwater environment is a haven for hundreds of species that inhabit the area from the ocean floor to the surface, including deep sea corals, rare fish, a variety of marine mammals, and seabirds. For an undersea tour, visit the Mystic Aquarium site.
Since it was established, a commercial fishing coalition has sued to have the designation rescinded. Yet part of the scientific rationale of the designation is to preserve the northeast fisheries for the long run because species numbers are swiftly declining. The cold-water coral reefs are nurseries and places of rest for many species, where their numbers can rebound. This place serves as a stocking source for the rest of the area.
Interfaith Oceans has been working since 2014 on helping to create this national marine monument, along with one at Cashes Ledge off the coast of Maine (which is not yet fully protected). Through an email petition drive, Interfaith Oceans provided testimony to NOAA on the crucial role of marine monuments to protect rare underwater habitats and give sanctuary to beleaguered and declining marine species. These sanctuaries support the long-term health of the fisheries, which keep the coastal communities vibrant. The act of putting these nurseries of diversity and abundant life is part of giving back to our Creator a portion of what has been put into our care freely.
Congress has a key role in protecting the size of established monuments. Please contact make your communities aware of the value of these marine monuments and contact the Administration and your congressional representatives. Get involved in saving these underwater Arks!
“Many of the world’s coral reefs are already barren or in a state of constant decline… Because all creatures are connected, each must be cherished with love and respect, for all of us as living creatures are dependent on one another.. . . “
– Pope Francis, Laudato Si’
“To protect the oceans is to do God's work. To harm them, even if we are ignorant of the harm we cause, is to diminish His divine Creation. We can stop over-fishing and destructive fishing methods so that the miracle of the fishes will endure for future generations… We can establish sanctuaries in the sea where we agree to do no harm of any kind.”
– Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, World Oceans Day 2003
"It is such a privilege to have been a part of the effort to help to protect and defend for all time New England's Coral Canyons and Seamounts: a sacred, God given creation, that cannot advocate for itself…”
– Barbara Scott, Chair, Board of Governors, Rhode Island State Council of Churches
“The rare and amazing marine creation in our new national monument in the Atlantic merits our wonder and awe. God’s creation deserves this recognition and care, and we are grateful!”
– Rev. Laura Everett, Executive Director, Massachusetts Council of Churches
“Designating this monument is another sign that human beings are beginning to take seriously our urgent call to protect God’s creation. In the words of Habbakuk, the day is drawing near when the earth shall be filled with the glory of God as the waters cover the sea. …”
– Rev. Margaret Bullitt Jonas, Missioner for Creation Care
Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts and United Church of Christ Massachusetts Conference