Seas & Shores

Audubon Goes to Court to Defend Seabird Winter Home

Audubon’s Seabird Science was Instrumental in Creating Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Monument.

(Washington, DC) – “Our science tells us that the Seamounts Monument is a critical winter home for seabirds—it’s where they go to rest after raising their chicks over the summer and it’s where they find a winter food supply. This Monument is now under threat and we are defending it. We have to protect places that marine life depend on if they are going to have a chance to survive our changing climate,” said David Yarnold, President and CEO of National Audubon Society (@david_yarnold).

Today, National Audubon Society moved to file a friend-of-the-court brief to protect the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument against a legal challenge from commercial fishing interests (Massachusetts Lobstermen’s Association, et. al. v. Wilbur J.Ross, Jr.). This first U.S. Atlantic marine monument was proclaimed in 2016 and covers approximately 4,900 square miles of land and water off the New England Coast, including three undersea canyons and four undersea mountains. The features of the monument create a one-of-a-kind ecosystem that supports a diversity of marine life below and above the water – corals, crustaceans, fish, mammals and seabirds. Audubon’s discovery that Maine’s threatened Atlantic Puffins relied on this remote area for winter food was instrumental in establishing the Monument and drawing its boundaries.  

“I cannot overstate how ecologically and scientifically significant this part of the Atlantic is,” said Dr. Stephen Kress, Director of the Audubon Seabird Restoration Program and Project Puffin. “Protecting this area from intensive commercial fishing and other commercial threats is absolutely the right thing to do not only for the benefit of all of the marine life, but for the long-term health of New England’s coastal communities.”  

Abolishing the area’s monument status or reducing its size also makes it vulnerable to oil and gas development, which, combined with the effects of a warming and acidifying ocean, will irreversibly damage this biodiverse hotspot about which we have much more to discover. “My life’s work is helping seabirds survive the changing climate and other pressures,” said Dr. Kress. “Seamounts are a vital oasis for puffins, terns, shearwaters and so many other amazing marine animals. The Monument provides irreplaceable habitat that not only nurtures wildlife within its borders, but provides a breeding place for forage and commercial fish species that leave the Monument to populate adjacent habitats. Our science shows that both the creation of the monument and its size are just what the law was meant to protect.”

Audubon’s report on birds in a changing climate:
Audubon’s Project Puffin led by Dr. Stephen Kress:

The National Audubon Society protects birds and the places they need, today and tomorrow, throughout the Americas using science, advocacy, education and on-the-ground conservation. Audubon’s state programs, nature centers, chapters and partners have an unparalleled wingspan that reaches millions of people each year to inform, inspire and unite diverse communities in conservation action. Since 1905, Audubon’s vision has been a world in which people and wildlife thrive. Audubon is a nonprofit conservation organization. Learn more at and @audubonsociety.

Media Contact: Anne Singer, 202-271-4679,


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