In November of 1992, as part of the National Marine Sanctuaries Act, Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary was designated as a National Marine Sanctuary. This incredible sanctuary off the coast of Boston, Massachusetts, is home to the critically endangered North Atlantic Right Whale, seabirds, and a variety of fish including; cod, haddock, hakes, flounders, redfish, and bluefin tuna. Despite its designation as a sanctuary in 1992, Stellwagen Bank NMS has not been treated as a sanctuary or a sacred place.
As Christians, we know that our sanctuaries are havens of spiritual reflection and growth as well as a place of comfort to connect with God. We treat our sanctuaries with care, recognizing it’s a reflection of our relationship to God. Unfortunately, that is not the way that Stellwagen Bank NMS has been treated.
The lack of an effective management plan has led to the degradation of the sanctuary. Based on the sanctuary condition report in 2007, “Habitat quality...has deteriorated over many years, primarily as a result of long-term use of bottom dragging gear to catch fish...Living resource conditions have followed trends similar to those of habitats and are generally considered to be in fair or fair to poor condition… surface dwelling marine mammals are at considerable risk from strikes by increasing vessel traffic in New England and from entanglement from lines attached to fishing gear.” Despite, this clear issue, no action was taken, resulting in a 2020 condition report that stated, “Data suggest measurable degradation of habitat quality over the past 10 years, primarily due to direct impacts of commercial fishing, but also as a result of increasing noise levels that interrupt behavior and communication of many marine species.”
The faith and conservation communities were hopeful that the 2022 draft revised management plan for Stellwagen Bank would address this deterioration of the sanctuary and propose measures to better care for this piece of God’s creation, but unfortunately the draft did not propose the necessary changes to invest in God’s marine creation. It is with disappointment we note that the final management plan for Stellwagen Bank NMS was released last month without any of the proposed changes from the faith and conservation communities despite many public comments, meetings with NOAA staff and petitions submitted to NOAA. Our community will continue to do our best to care for God’s creation, to advocate for those parts of God’s creation that can not advocate for themselves, and to ground ourselves in the knowledge that God cares for the creation that we hold dear.
Creation Justice Ministries
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This blog shares the activities of Creation Justice Ministries. We educate and equip Christians to protect, restore, and rightly share God's creation.