Lonely Planet Writer

Underwater mountains and canyons fill America's first marine national monument in the Atlantic Ocean

The US has designated its first marine national monument in the Atlantic Ocean in an effort to protect deep-sea eco-systems off the coast of New England, in an area that has been dubbed an “underwater Yellowstone”.

The area, which will be named the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument, includes underwater mountains and canyons and “will provide critical protections for important ecological resources and marine species, including deep-sea coral and endangered whales and sea turtles,” according to a White House statement. Media reports have compared the area to an underwater version of the country’s most famous national park, Yellowstone

The newly protected area is the first in America’s Atlantic waters. It is described as containing three underwater canyons that are deeper than the Grand Canyon, as well as four underwater mountains that are home to rare and endangered species, such as sperm, fin, and sei whales and Kemp’s ridley turtles. The Department of the Interior explained that the undersea mountains are called Bear, Mytilus, Physalia, and Retriever, and the canyons are named Oceanographer, Lydonia, and Gilbert. The area is located about 130 miles off the coast of Cape Cod and contains deep-sea coral eco-systems.

This decision comes shortly after the US moved to expand the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument off the coast of Hawaii by 442,781 square miles, creating the world’s largest marine protected area.