Located in the center of the Gulf of Maine, 80 nautical miles off the coasts of Portland, Maine and Gloucester, Massachusetts, Cashes Ledge and area surrounding it is one of the most ecologically important areas in North Atlantic and a well known hotspot of biodiversity. The steep ridges and deep basins along this 25-mile-long mountain range create ideal conditions for marine life as currents mix nutrient- and oxygen-rich water from the top of the water column to the seafloor far below. The ledge’s peak, known as Ammen Rock comes within 40 feet of the surface and is home to the deepest and largest kelp forest on the Atlantic seaboard.
This lush kelp provides superb habitat and serves as a food source for the vast array of ocean wildlife that lives on Cashes Ledge and the surrounding area. The diverse seafloor habitat of Cashes Ledge ranges from rocky outcroppings to deep mud basins, providing refuge for common New England fish such as Atlantic cod and pollock and rare species like the Atlantic wolffish.
This abundance also draws in migrating schools of bluefin tuna, blue and porbeagle sharks, and passing pods of highly endangered North Atlantic right whales and humpback whales. Cashes Ledge also supports a spectacular array of bottom dwelling species including bright orange, red, yellow and rare blue sponges, sea stars, brittle and feather stars, northern shrimp, sea squirts, sea pens, sea anemones, tube worms, horse mussels and a variety of encrusting bryozoans.
Cashes Ledge is important not only to marine life but also to scientists who use Cashes Ledge as an open sea laboratory to study the health and function of New England’s oceans and the impact of climate change. Many scientists believe that Cashes Ledge represents the best remaining example of an undisturbed Gulf of Maine ecosystem.
Special places like Cashes Ledge, along with the Atlantic Canyons and Seamounts, need permanent protection if we are to have any hope for maintaining healthy oceans for future generations.