President Obama designates first marine national monument in Atlantic Ocean

Today President Obama created the Atlantic Ocean’s first marine national monument, preserving nearly 5,000 square miles of underwater mountains and canyons off the coast of New England.

RELATED: President Obama creates the Katahdin Woods National Monument in Maine

Mr. Obama designated the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument during the Our Ocean conference in Washington D.C., which was hosted by Secretary of State John Kerry.

As Obama said during his speech, “We’re protecting fragile ecosystems off the coast of New England, including pristine underseas canyons and seamounts. We’re helping make the oceans more resilient to climate change … and we’re doing it in a way that respects the fishing industry’s unique role in New England’s economy and history.”

The protected area is roughly the size of Connecticut and lies 130 miles off the coast of Cape Cod. It houses underwater canyons deeper than the Grand Canyon and is home to an ecosystem with endangered whales and sea turtles and deep-sea coral reefs.

To coincide with the announcement, the White House’s Instagram was taken over today by five ocean photographers. Among them was the Chris Burkard.

@ChrisBurkard here to close out today's takeover. The Ocean has always been my favorite subject to photograph. The best part about it is that you never truly see same side of it twice. Some days it is the calmest calm, almost meditative and others it's hurricane force winds. Regardless it never stops giving…never stops providing. Today is a day for us to give back. Today 4,913 square miles off the coast of New England will be put into permanent protection. This comes in addition to the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, which President Obama expanded by 442,781 square miles last month. This isn't just a win for the United States but for the entire world that depends on the these fragile ecosystems. #OurOcean

A photo posted by The White House (@whitehouse) on

President Obama said that his administration “has protected more waters than any in history.” This includes his work last month to expand the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument off the coast of Hawaii by 442,781 square miles, which created the world's largest marine protected area.

The Mytilus Seamount which is part of the new Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument. Photo: Courtesy of NOAA

The Mytilus Seamount which is part of the new Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument. Photo: Courtesy of NOAA

Invoking his childhood in Hawaii, it’s clear that Mr. Obama will be continuing to leave his mark by protecting nature as his second term winds down:

“The notion that the ocean I grew up with is not something I can pass on to my kids and my grandkids is unacceptable. It’s unimaginable. And so the investment that all of us together make here today is vital for our economy, it’s vital for our foreign policy, it’s vital for our security, but it’s also vital for our spirit. It’s vital to who we are.”

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