Over the last several weeks, we’ve seen the country engulfed in anger over murders of Blacks committed or condoned by police, even as COVID-19 infections continue to climb throughout the nation. While stoking the trauma and suffering wrought by both crises, Trump also has used these crises as cover to continue his unrelenting assault on our environment.

During a visit to Maine, he announced his decision to open the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument to commercial fishing. This action will have disastrous effects on our ocean and the creatures that call it home, and it cannot be allowed to stand.

Designated in 2016 by President Obama, the monument is home to ancient and fragile coral communities, endangered whales, and an abundance of unique and rare marine life. Located 130 miles southeast of Cape Cod, the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts includes close to 5,000 square miles of protected area free from threats like commercial fishing.

Opening the Atlantic’s only marine national monument to commercial activity is unlawful and will result in the very opposite of what the President claims: it will harm the economic prospects of our fishing communities and the health of our ocean. This is why Conservation Law Foundation has filed a lawsuit challenging the President’s action.

Put simply, President Trump does not have the power to roll back protections for a national monument, hard as he might try. Our national monuments, whether on land or in the ocean, are permanent. The Antiquities Act gives presidents the power to create them, but not to repeal them or eliminate core protections.

This decision is simply the latest example of this administration’s shameful pattern of unlawfully sacrificing our public spaces for private gain, weakening critical environmental policies, and increasing pollution’s toll of sickness and death.

Removing protections and allowing commercial fishing within the boundaries of the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts will cause permanent and profound damage. Industrial-scale fishing gear can catch and entangle marine wildlife — including endangered whales, dolphins, sea turtles, and seabirds — and destroy rare and fragile corals.

Bottom-trawl fishing gear can also irreparably damage spawning and nursery grounds. Longline fishing gear, using thousands of baited hooks, catches and harms endangered seabirds. These types of fishing gear are what Trump’s announcement would allow back in the monument.

The rollback was announced at a meeting with Maine fishermen that had been carefully curated to include only President Trump’s supporters. Among other inane claims to his audience, Trump said dismantling the monument’s protections would help speed their economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic. But removing the monument’s protections won’t help fishermen recover lost revenue or revive markets lost due to Trump’s aimless trade wars and the pandemic-driven closure of restaurants. Never mind the fact that few, if any, Maine lobstermen travel the more than 300 miles to the monument waters in the first place.

Removing protections for the monument is nothing more than the latest empty promise and bluster from this administration.

Protecting the monument from commercial fishing will allow fish populations to rebound after years of depletion, which would actually help our coastal economies. Ensuring healthy fisheries for future generations means preventing indiscriminate fishing everywhere.

Protecting our ocean is also an essential component of solving the climate crisis. Our oceans have absorbed the majority of the world’s excess heat and approximately a quarter of the emissions from our relentless burning of fossil fuels and constant release of carbon pollution into the atmosphere. After decades of enduring this abuse, the world’s oceans are warmer, more acidic, and losing oxygen.

New England’s ocean waters are no exception. The Gulf of Maine is warming significantly faster than the rest of the ocean, and we are already seeing depleted fish populations and destroyed underwater habitats as a result. Protected areas like the monument have greater biodiversity, which builds resiliency to the stress of climate change.

And this is New England’s only marine monument, one of very few unspoiled areas that can provide resilience and refuge for ocean resources (and a future for fishermen) in a fast-changing climate. Now, only the courts can stop it from being sacrificed for a photo op.

Bradley M. Campbell is President of Conservation Law Foundation