Freedom Comes In Many Forms: What warrants the use of the unilateral Presidential authority encompassed in the Antiquities Act?

William Palombo, President of Palombo Fishing Corporation, of Newport, RI and resident of Portsmouth, Rhode Island, has recently written a letter to President Obama urging him to reconsider his use of the Antiquities Act in order to create a new Marine Monument in the three Atlantic Ocean Canyons: Oceanographer’s Canyon; Lydonia’s Canyon and Gilbert’s Canyon and the Seamount area in depths of less than 900 meters. This new Marine Monument will directly affect 100% of Palombo’s lobster boat, the f/v Freedom’s fishing revenues as well as for many others. Palombo hopes to dissuade the President and asks him to not supersede the transparent, public processes currently underway in New England to protect Atlantic Ocean habitat and coral.

Palombo’s cry for help comes at a pivotal point in President Obama’s final push to leave an environmental legacy. On Thursday, September 15th, Senator John Kerry is expected to announce the new Atlantic Marine Monument. Till now, Obama had protected nearly 2,176,821 acres of public land. His aggressive use of his executive authority in this arena has already prompted congressional backlash.

This comes after a year of extensive effort by Palombo and the Atlantic Offshore Lobstermen’s Association (AOLA) to convey to local and national governments that there is no immediate or documented threats to these areas less than 900 meters, which would warrant the use of the unilateral Presidential authority encompassed in the Antiquities Act. This Congressional Act was authored in 1906, long before the movement to promote open government.

“Despite the claims of proponents: the Conservation Law Foundation; the Natural Resources Defense Council; Oceana and the Pew Foundation, there are no imminent threats to the habitat and coral in these areas that require expedient action by your Administration. There are no active proposals for oil, gas, or mineral exploration, nor could there be such activity without years of environmental impact assessment and permitting review.

Further, multiple fisheries, including the Red Crab Fishery which is certified by the Marine Stewardship Council, have fished in these canyon areas for decades with such little habitat impact that monument proponents themselves, call these areas “PRISTINE”, despite 40+ years of fishing activity. Importantly, most Atlantic corals are in waters deeper than the areas fished (see NOAA’s Deep-Sea Coral Database)

Despite the fears expressed by environmental groups that Lobstermen will eventually fish deeper than 600 meters, it will not happen, even if the technology was available, which it isn’t, because Lobster does not reside at these deeper depths.”

In his letter to President Obama, Palombo recommends the Council for Environmental Quality (CEQ) have White House Staff modify the proposal in order to incorporate what industry representatives have recommended to the CEQ: Begin the Marine Monument area at a depth of 450 meters. Starting the monument area at a depth of 450 meters and below would allow environmentalists and the fishing industry to continue a symbiotic relationship. This alteration to the legislation would help preserve a rich history of Lobstering in the New England area as well as preserve an underwater environment for years to come.

Ryan Belmore is the Owner and Publisher of What's Up Newp. He was born and raised in Rhode Island and graduated from Coventry High School. He serves as Vice President of Fort Adams Trust and serves on the Board of Directors for Potter League for Animals. Ryan also is currently the Senior Editor - North America for Mountain News, publisher of OnTheSnow. Ryan is a member of Local Independent Online News (LION) Publishers and North American Snowsports Journalists Association (NASJA).