America’s Newest National Monument!

Coral Canyons and Seamounts


Written by SurfWriter Girls Sunny Magdaug and Patti Kishel

pres-obamaEnvironmentalists are celebrating America’s newest national monument – New England’s Coral Canyons and Seamounts marine ecosystem, located 150 miles southeast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts. President Obama declared the 6,000 sq.mi. area a national monument site on September 15, 2016.


The sea region provides food and shelter for numerous species of fish and other sea life and contains majestic seamounts rising as high as 7,000 feet from the ocean floor – higher than any mountains east of the Rockies.

Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal, an advocate for the monument, said, “There is no better time than this year—the 100th anniversary of our national park system—to establish another ‘blue park’.”


Making this precious ocean site a national monument will preserve and protect it against oil and gas exploration and industrial fishing and ensure that equipment and pollution don’t damage the fragile environment.


More than 200 scientists, researchers, educators, and organizations, including the National Geographic Society, spoke out in favor of the monument designation.


“Protecting special places like this provides an especially important buffer against the impacts of climate change,” said Earthjustice President Trip Van Noppen, in reaction to the news.

Oceanographer Philippe Cousteau called it “A great day for our water planet!’

SurfWriter Girls Sunny Magdaug and Patti Kishel learned that there are close to 75 types of coral in the Coral Canyons and Seamounts area and 1,000 different kinds of marine life.


NOAA’s ROV Deep Discover or D2 for short explorers an underwater “forest” of corals. It takes hundreds of years for corals to grow as big as the ones we found in Heezen Canyon. Some deepwater corals are believed to live as long as 6,000 years.

Sea turtles, sharks and endangered sperm whales populate the pristine waters.

Green Sea Turtle. Chelonia mydas. Maui, Hawaii, USA.

seamounts-mapThe four huge seamounts themselves are the only ones found in U.S. Atlantic waters…and are a critical part of this deep sea ecosystem.

Wilderness advocate Arlo Hemphill said, “I think the designation is fantastic, a long-coming win for many hard-working conservationists and organizations that have fought for this for years.”

“The Inland Ocean Community is thrilled,” Vicki N. Goldstein, Founder and Director, Colorado Ocean Coalition, told SurfWriter Girls. “This new designation provides needed permanent protection in a region that has unique formations, cold water corals , and a variety of whales and other marine mammals.”


The monument got a warm welcome in other countries, too. Dr. Tomas Tomascik, former National Science Advisor for Canada’s Parks Canada Agency, said to SurfWriter Girls, “This is a great contribution by the USA to the conservation of Atlantic deep-sea coral communities and the biodiversity associated with these amazing but fragile deep-water systems.”


In addition to the scientific community, more than 300,000 people signed petitions on behalf of the Canyons/Seamounts proposal.

Such broad support for the ocean monument is something that Dr. Wallace J. Nichols, Founder of Blue Mind Life, is excited to see. His organization’s goal is to connect people to water. “Beyond economic and scientific reasons for preserving our ocean, humans have a creative and calming connection with the big blue,” he shared with SurfWriter Girls.

Coral Canyons and Seamounts is an ocean treasure not to be wasted. And, now that it is a national monument, it won’t be. Thus providing a window on the sea and on ourselves.


We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea,
whether it is to sail or to watch,
we are going back from whence we came.

– John F. Kennedy

Surf’n Beach Scene Magazine

SurfWriter Girls

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Banning Ranch Vote Is In!

Owls 9: Developers 1


Written By SurfWriter Girls Sunny Magdaug and Patti Kishel

dsc06610Spartacus – a tiny rescue owl with an epic name – stood patiently on his perch surveying the crowds outside the California Coastal Commission meeting in Newport Beach on Wednesday, September 7, where the fate of the proposed Banning Ranch development project was being decided.

With his damaged eye and beak, Spartacus, a burrowing owl the size of a man’s hand who lives at the Orange County Bird of Prey Center, stood in silent testimony to the need to save Newport Beach’s 401-acre Banning Ranch property from residential and commercial development that would threaten the home of the burrowing owls and other endangered species that live on the coastal land.


Hundreds of people turned out for the public meeting, which started at 9 a.m. and lasted more than 13 hours.


Spectators stood along the walls and filled an extra, overflow room. More than 400 people signed up to speak.






Prior to the meeting Steve Ray, Executive Director of the Banning Ranch Conservancy, told SurfWriter Girls Sunny Magdaug and Patti Kishel, “All of us working together are going to save Banning Ranch.”

And, finally, when the vote was taken late into the night, demonstrators against the project cheered. The commissioners voted 9 -1 against the proposed development, which would have put 895 homes, 45,000 sq. ft. of retail space, a hotel, and more on the site.


After a 20-year battle, environmentalists who want the oil company land restored and preserved, could breathe a sigh of relief and celebrate.

dsc06626Protesters of the development included the Sierra Club, environmental organizations and representatives of the Native American Nations, who view the Banning Ranch land as sacred.


Darrel Ferguson and Tony Soriano, chairpersons of the Surfrider Foundation’s Newport Beach and Huntington/Seal Beach chapters, showed up to protest the development. Soriano said, “The Surfrider Foundation is about protecting the natural environment for everyone to enjoy.”

dsc06621Merle Moshiri, of local organization Residents for Responsible Desalination, said, “We share the victory of the Banning Ranch Conservancy, but we have to remain vigilant. There’s too much exquisite land for developers to give up on.” Quoting the late Peter Douglas, the commission’s executive director for 26 years, she added: “’The coast is never saved, It is always Being saved.’”

Information booths were set up outside the civic center including one where people could make their own handmade signs.



The Coastal Commission’s acting executive director Jack Ainsworth told the audience he had made a promise that “our recommendations are based on facts, sound science and the law.” He emphasized “It is critically important that we get it right because we may not get a second chance.”

bird-in-flowers-2aAlong with the owls, 93 species of birds and many endangered wildlife reside in Banning Ranch and it is a resting point for migratory birds. (See SurfWriter Girls previous story in Surf’n Beach Scene Magazine. Just click: Owls)

In making its ruling, the commission said that the developer Newport Banning Ranch LLC can resubmit another proposal in six months.

Like his historical namesake who led a rebellion against the Roman army in 73 B.C., Spartacus, the owl, showed that he could win against a powerful force, too.


The little owl and its endangered brethren prevailed, charming people’s hearts.

Surf’n Beach Scene Magazine

SurfWriter Girls

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Sunny Magdaug and Patti Kishel hold the exclusive rights to this copyrighted material. Publications wishing to reprint it may contact them at Individuals and non-profit groups are welcome to post it on social media sites as long as credit is given.