The move on Tuesday helps put some finishing touches on Obama's environmental legacy while also testing President-elect Donald Trump's promise to unleash the nation's untapped energy reserves.
Environmental groups hope the ban, despite relying on executive powers, will be difficult for future presidents to reverse.
The White House says Obama has used a provision in a 1953 law to ban offshore leases in the waters permanently.
The Atlantic waters placed off limits are 31 canyons stretching off the coast of New England south to Virginia.
Canada is also placing a moratorium on new leasing in its Arctic waters.
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