Celebrating New England Lobsters on National Lobster Day

Cashes Ledge Lobster
A lobster at Cashes Ledge. Photo courtesy Brett Seymour/CLF

If there’s one thing we can be sure of, it’s that New Englanders love lobster. It’s weaved into our culture and history, and it’s unimaginable to think of New England without this famed summer seafood.

Few know that lobsters were once so plentiful in New England that Native Americans used them as fertilizer for their fields, and as bait for fishing. And before trapping was common, “catching” a lobster meant picking one up along the shoreline!

During World War II, lobster was viewed as a delicacy, so it wasn’t rationed like other food sources. Lobster meat filled a demand for protein-rich sources, and continued to increase in popularity in post-war years, which encouraged more people to join the industry.

Popular ever since, now when most people are asked what comes to mind when they think of New England, seafood – especially lobster – is typically at the top of the list.

An industry under threat

We love our New England lobster, but there’s evidence suggesting they’re in danger of moving away from their longtime home. That’s because lobster is under threat from climate change, the effects of which can already be seen on this particular species.

The Gulf of Maine is warming faster than 99% of ocean areas. Until last winter’s uncharacteristically cold temperatures, the prior few years saw an increase in catchable lobster – as the warmer temperatures cause them to molt early, and they move toward inshore waters after molting. However, continued warming will ultimately encourage the lobsters to move north to find colder waters, where they spend the majority of their time.

This is already happening in southern New England, where the industry is already suffering, seeing lobsters migrating northward.

And we’re still learning about the potential for damage caused by ocean acidification, as well as how lobsters may be affected by an increase in colder than usual New England winters.

As we celebrate one of New England’s iconic species on National Lobster Day, let’s remember that slowing down climate change is an important priority for ensuring that future generations can enjoy not Canadian or Icelandic lobster, but New England lobster. Click here to support Conservation Law Foundation’s efforts on fighting climate change.

Save the Whales: Create marine protected areas

“Save the Whales” was a popular cry in the late 1980s to ban commercial whaling worldwide. While progress has certainly been made, this phrase should not be relegated to a dated trope: Many whale populations are still struggling, including our New England’s own North Atlantic Right Whale.

Found from Nova Scotia to Florida, the area from the Gulf of Maine to Cape Cod is essential for this endangered species. Its name comes from the idea that it was the “right” whale to hunt – it was slow-moving and had lots of oil and baleen. Commercial whaling for this species ended in 1935, but these New England whales are still rebuilding.

Zach Klyver, a naturalist with Bar Harbor Whale Watch, has conducted surveys commissioned by the New England Aquarium on whales in the Cashes Ledge Area in the Gulf of Maine. During these winter surveys, Klyer says he saw many right whales breeching just before sunset. According to Klyver, “Cashes Ledge is a significant place for right whales year-round.”

Marine protected areas allow species like the right whale to find refuge from human threats and to thrive. Dr. Scott Kraus, marine scientist at the New England Aquarium, says that the reason Cashes Ledge in particular is important is because “The landscape underwater has a lot of steep angles and hills, so that any water currents rush to the surface. This makes plankton bloom, and it brings fish in – it’s a great restaurant for whales in New England.”

Thriving whale populations also help boost tourism during the popular whale-watching season—more whales means more opportunities for sightseeing. Tourism in New England provides 230,000 jobs and brings in $16 billion – more than all the fisheries, forestry, and agriculture industries combined – making it the life blood of New England’s economy.

An expanding coalition is working to establish permanent protections for Cashes Ledge and another important New England area, the Coral Canyons and Seamounts, by calling on President Obama to establish the first Marine National Monument in the Atlantic. Join the conversation on Twitter: Tweet with #SaveOceanTreasures


Fish Friday Finale

Over the course of the summer, we’ve been showcasing some of the fish (and other species) that make their home in New England’s ocean waters: Some of these species are endangered and in need of protections (see #SaveOceanTreasures), and some are considered underutilized because of low demand. Others are just fun or silly (or silly-looking!).

One of the main goals of the New England Ocean Odyssey project is to unlock the mysteries of the ocean: What creatures live there? What important habitats are out there, and why should we care about them? We want to let people know about this whole other world that exists just beyond what we can see. To that end, we hope you’ve found this series fun and informative, and we look forward to providing you with more “Creature Features” in the future!!

Now, in case you missed any – a Fish Friday Wrap-Up:

Atlantic_Salmon_Credit_TimothyKnepp_FWSSOS: Save Our (Atlantic) Salmon!


The Basking Shark: A Modern Marine Mystery Basking Shark


The Atlantic Wolffish – Antifreeze Included 1.13_Matthew_Lawrence



Silver Hake: A Scrumptious and Sustainable Cod SubstituteSilverHake



Hooded seal The Hooded Seal: Battling Foes with a Bladder Nose!


Atlantic Halibut – Don’t Let the Googly Eyes Fool YouAtlanticHalibut


Acadian Redfish: Consume Regularly for a Healthy OceanAcadian_Redfish_Credit_NOAA_Fishwatch



20091114 AT SEA : FRENCH POLYNESIA A juvenile oceaninc white tip shark swims past an apparently abandoned fish aggregating device (FAD) made of fishing nets, buoys and bamboo sticks, floats at sea in French Polynesian Waters off the Marquesas Islands at LAT 09:46.3 SOUTH / LONG 142 38.4 WEST. Greenpeace is calling for a global ban on FADs. GREENPEACE / ALEX HOFFORD Atlantic Spiny Dogfish, the Comeback Shark 


A Rollercoaster of Demand for Atlantic Pollock Atlantic Pollock


Fish Friday: A Rollercoaster of Demand for Atlantic Pollock

Atlantic PollockFriday, Friday, gotta read Fish (on) Friday. Last week, we featured a shark, and before that, a pretty little rosefish. But today, we have a real fish’s fish for you – a greenish, scaly, schooling creature with barbels and a classic fishy silhouette – the Atlantic pollock.

You are probably very familiar with this fish’s close relative, the cod, and you may even know about the Alaskan pollock – one of the largest, most valuable fisheries in the world. But have you ever heard of the Atlantic pollock?

Pollachius virens range. Image via NOAA Fishwatch.PollockGOM

To be even more specific, we’re talking about Pollachius virens, the species of pollock living in the Northwestern Atlantic (not to be confused with Pollachius pollachius, the Eastern Atlantic species). These guys are most common on the western Scotian Shelf, on Georges Bank, and in the Gulf of Maine (see map). Juveniles feed on crustaceans and small fish, while adults feed primarily on other fish. They may grow up to 3.5 feet long and live up to 23 years.

Ignored, Overfished, and then Ignored Once Again

Before the 1980s, Atlantic pollock were primarily harvested as bycatch. However, demand grew steadily, peaking in 1986. By 1994, the stock crashed due to overfishing. Strict management regulations were quickly put in place, and the population rebounded. By 2010, the Georges Bank and Gulf of Maine pollock stocks were 115% above target population levels. Today, the species is managed under the Northeast Multispecies Fishery Management Plan.

Much like the Acadian redfish and Atlantic spiny dogfish, the recovery of this species was a mega management victory. But the ecological recovery of Atlantic pollock came at a price – while the stocks were rebuilding, the Atlantic pollock fishery was largely ignored. So much so that even today, it is an afterthought compared to the Gulf of Maine cod, haddock, and flounder fisheries.

In 2014, only 26% of the potential harvest was actually caught. Why are we heavily overfishing some fish populations, while ignoring healthy Atlantic pollock stocks? Because there isn’t demand for Atlantic pollock – at least, not yet. As with three of our previously featured underutilized species (silver hake, Acadian redfish, and Atlantic spiny dogfish), the Gulf of Maine Research Institute’s Out of the Blue campaign is working to create consumer support for sustainable seafood, as well as incentivize restaurants to use these underappreciated species. Check out their Seafood Dining Series to sample local, responsibly harvested seafood masterpieces, or try whipping up some Atlantic pollock for yourself with these cooking tips!

Bon Appétit!

While landings peak from November to January, Atlantic pollock are typically available year-round. They’re very low in saturated fat and are a great source of protein, vitamin B12, phosphorus, and selenium. You can find them as whole, as fillets, and as fresh, frozen, or smoked steaks – but make sure you’re buying Atlantic pollock, not Alaskan pollock, for a local meal! The Alaskan pollock fishery is well-managed and stocks are not overfished, but eating fish from the Pacific won’t help incentivize Gulf of Maine fishermen to harvest underutilized species. We need to build a demand for sustainable seafood from our own backyard!

The firm, white meat of Alantic pollock has a sweet, delicate flavor and is great for dishes such as Atlantic pollock in cartoccio with preserved blood orange (basically an easy, delicious, fancy fish cooked in a bag). Or if you’re a fish sandwich kind of person, you could try an island spiced pollock sandwich with sautéed spinach, tomato, avocado and cherry pepper aioli. Yum!

Hungry yet? What are you waiting for? Make room for Atlantic Pollock!

Fish Friday: Atlantic Spiny Dogfish, the Comeback Shark

On this marvelous Friday, we bring to our fish-loving friends a miraculous fish – the Atlantic spiny dogfish. Spiny Dogfish

This groundfish (which…SURPRISE! is actually a shark) suffered a serious population decline in the 1990s, but stocks have since recovered. In fact, the dogfish is now the largest shark fishery in the U.S.

Small, but Spiny

Spiny dogfish have slim bodies and a narrow pointed snout. They are gray in color, with white bottoms, but no chance you’ll mistake these guys for great whites. Dogfish have characteristic white spots and only grow to 4 feet (females) and 3.3 feet (males).

Typical of any groundfish, spiny dogfish swim in large schools near bottom habitat. They prefer temperate areas (Nova Scotia to Cape Hatteras) and will migrate seasonally as water temperature changes, moving north in the spring and summer months and south in the fall and winter. Some brave dogfish will take on the winter in the north, but will move to offshore waters.

Spiny dogfish are opportunistic feeders. Their preferred meal choice changes as they grow larger: the kids menu features primarily crustaceans, but larger dogfish take on jellies, squid, and schooling fish. And these sharks are more than just teeth – they have venomous spines on their dorsal fins! Unfortunately for the dogfish, the spines don’t seem to deter predators. Cod, red hake, goosefish, other spiny dogfish and larger sharks, seals, and orcas often make the dinner out of the dogfish.

An Attractive Female Fish
Spiny Dogfish
Dogfish grow slowly and reach sexual maturity later in life, females at 12 years and males at 6 years. They spawn offshore in winter months, and females give birth to live young, averaging 6 pups per litter.

Female dogfish are larger than males (growing to 4 feet versus 3.3 feet), which make them an attractive catch for fishermen. This, combined with late sexual maturity, makes populations vulnerable to overfishing. Between 1987 and 1996, when traditional groundfish stocks ran low and international demand for dogfish increased, fishermen began targeting these larger females. It only took about ten years for populations to decline to minimum sustainable levels in 1998.

A Return to Glory

Once declared overfished, New England and Mid-Atlantic fishery managers began work on a Spiny Dogfish Fishery Management Plan (FMP), which was implemented in 2000. The Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council now leads on dogfish management actions, and in 2003 the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission issued an interstate FMP to accompany the original plan. Talk about fisheries management cooperation!

The FMP implemented in 2000 established low annual and per trip catch limits, which were effective. Although the species is still victim to trawler bycatch, NOAA Fisheries declared spiny dogfish populations rebuilt in 2010, and catch limits were increased.

Fishermen use longline, hand lines, and gillnets to catch the species. 28 million pounds of Atlantic spiny dogfish were harvested in 2012, a catch that was valued at $5 million.

SHARK and chips?

With all of this talk about the dogfish fishery, you might be wondering – who even buys and eats dogfish (a shark)?!

Massachusetts fishermen landed over half of the 2012 dogfish catch, but this abundant shark still remains an underutilized species in the U.S. The demand for U.S. dogfish comes from Europe where the species is used in common dishes such as British fish and chips and German shillerlocken, a beer garden snack.

Efforts are underway in the U.S. to promote dogfish consumption. GMRI’s Out of the Blue campaign hosted a Cape Shark Week this past July. They partnered with eight restaurants throughout New England to showcase the delicious species and build consumer awareness.

So what does dogfish taste like?! It’s a firm, flaky white meat with a sweet, mild flavor (think dogfish in tomato and citrus). Are we making you hungry yet?! What about roasted dogfish with red curry and bok choy or grilled dogfish kebabs with couscous and salsa verde?

And even more good news: dogfish is available year round and is a great low-fat source of protein, as well as selenium and vitamins B6 and B12!

Fish Friday: Acadian Redfish – Consume Regularly for a Healthy Ocean

A Floral Fish?
I must admit, it was a lovely little nickname of the Acadian redfish (Sebastes fasciatus) that drew me to feature this cool creature – “rosefish.” While they most certainly do not stay true to this name in odor, they make up for it in color. Redfish range from pale yellow to bright red, much like their floral namesake.
Acadian Redfish
Acadian redfish – a rosey-hued deep sea dweller. Image via NOAA Fishwatch.

You may also recognize redfish by the name “ocean perch,” but they are not, in fact, perch (genus Perca); they are actually rockfish (genus Sebastes). Literally, these guys love rocks…and mud, and clay. Basically, they love bottom substrates.

In the Gulf of Maine, redfish most commonly live at depths up to 975 feet. Juveniles are often found hanging out around deep sea corals such as Primnoa. The corals serve as nursery grounds that provide shelter and an array of delicious invertebrates for the juveniles to snack on. As they mature, they begin to feed on larger invertebrates and small fish.
Redfish and Primnoa
A redfish hangs out under some Primnoa. Image via NOAA Fishwatch.

Military-Grade Protein

Unlike cod and haddock, redfish weren’t always a crowd favorite. But in the 1930s, food freezing technology was developed, and the market for frozen redfish quickly arose. The fish were readily abundant and easily distributed in frozen form, making them a perfect source of protein for the U.S. military in the 1940s and 1950s. Unfortunately, by the mid-1980s, heavily-exploited redfish stocks reached an all-time low.

Around this time, scientists determined that redfish have sensitive biological characteristics that make them particularly vulnerable to overfishing: slow growth rates, low reproductive rates, late sexual maturity, and long lifespans. Taking these factors into consideration, fishery managers imposed strict regulations on fishing gear, catch limits, and fishing areas for Acadian redfish. By June 2012, the stock was declared fully recovered. The population is now estimated to be at 32% above the target population – a true fisheries management success story!

Changing Gear and Changing Mindsets

Redfish populations may be thriving, but neither fishermen nor consumers have been paying them much attention. In 2010, only about 23% of the total allowable Gulf of Maine total allowable catch was harvested. Add to that the fact that most of the GOM harvest was used as lobster bait, and you have a seriously underutilized species on your hands!

The Northeast Fisheries Science Center’s Cooperative Research took action to help the redfish fishery reach its full potential. Fishermen joined government officials, scientists and researchers, and other industry leaders for REDNET, a collaborative effort to “efficiently harvest the redfish resource in the Gulf of Maine while avoiding non-target catch” (NOAA Fishwatch).

Redfish grow up to 20 inches, but they have a flattened shape. Although still a victim to bycatch, their narrow bodies sometimes allow them to slip through standard 6.5 inch mesh groundfish nets. In March 2011, REDNET partners tested a 4.5 inch mesh on five commercial trips in the Gulf of Maine. According to the April 2012 Completion Report, the smaller mesh was extremely effective; the trips harvested commercial levels of redfish without significant levels of bycatch, which had been the fear.

After the successful demonstration of the 4.5 inch mesh, the New England Fishery Management Council (NEFMC) passed a rule allowing trawlers to use the smaller mesh only when targeting redfish (catch must be 80 percent redfish). With regulations in place, fishermen just need the incentive to commercially harvest redfish; they need to see that there is a market for their catch, that consumers are demanding the species.


Remember how we talked about silver hake, another underappreciated GOM species? How the Gulf of Maine Research Institute (GMRI) is running Out of the Blue to elevate consumer awareness and make under-loved GOM species profitable for fishermen to target? The Acadian redfish is in the same boat (pun intended!). GMRI is working with chefs, restaurants, and institutions to rebuild demand and create a market for redfish. Think: providing sustainable seafood information to culinary partners, rewarding restaurants that practice marine resource stewardship, and hosting a Seafood Dining Series to educate consumers. They want to give overfished populations, such as cod, a break by promoting more abundant alternatives. Maple miso redfish, anyone?

It keeps getting better. Acadian redfish are available year round; they’re low in saturated fat, calories, and mercury; and they’re good sources of calcium, protein, phosphorus, selenium, niacin, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12. So next time you’re craving fish tacos, make them spicy redfish tacos a delicious choice that’s good for the ocean and good for you.

Fish Friday: Atlantic Halibut – Don’t Let the Googly Eyes Fool You

Hello and happy Friday, fishy friends! We’re here to close out your week with another piscine creature feature. Today, we’re talking about a monstrous flatfish – the voracious, predacious Atlantic halibut.
Kelp Forest and Red Cod at Cashes Ledge; 70-miles off the coast of Maine
Image via Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs.

Big, Bad Beasties

Does this image reflect the intimidating sea beast you had in mind? Probably not. Like all flatfish, Atlantic halibut (Hippoglossus hippoglossus) lie on their left sides, giving them a goofy, almost crooked appearance. But don’t be fooled – their mouths gape all the way back to their eyes and are lined with sharp, curved teeth. Atlantic halibut range in color from dark chocolate to an olive brown with a blotchy, clouded gray lower side. Lying flat on the ocean floor, these fish are nearly invisible as they wait to ambush their prey. Starting to sound a little more predacious, right?

Now let’s dig into the “voracious” part. Atlantic halibut eat practically everything: other fish including cod, cusk, haddock, redfish, sculpins, hake, wolffish, and mackerel; as well as invertebrates like lobsters and crab. They’ve even reportedly eaten sea birds. Oh, and indigestible materials like iron, wood, and drift ice. These guys are pretty much the definition of opportunistic feeders – they’re out to eat whatever is most readily available. In the Gulf of Maine, though, they prefer to feed chiefly on other fish. And don’t worry, as opportunistic as they are, they are completely harmless to humans.

This is lucky, considering how “monstrous” they are…or at least were. Reports of 600 to 700 lb. Atlantic halibuts are often viewed as exaggerations, but at least one account of a fish in this weight class, caught about 50 miles off of Cape Ann by Capt. A. S. Ree in 1917, has been confirmed. The world record according to the International Game Fish Association (est. 1939) stands at 418 lbs., caught off the Norwegian coast in 2004.

Today, however, “large” Atlantic halibut hauled into New England docks range from about 50 to 200 lbs. It is believed that fully-grown females average between 100 and 150 lbs., while males weigh significantly less. Now, a 150 lb. fish is still pretty ginormous in my book, but why aren’t we finding the 600+ lb. whoppers of the 19th and early 20th centuries?

Here Today, Gone Tomorrow

That seems to be the motto of the commercial Atlantic halibut industry. Before 1820, these colossal fish were considered to be a nuisance. They hindered cod fishermen’s efforts by eating and chasing away their catch, often snapping some fishing gear in the process. However, a market for Atlantic halibut meat arose in Boston sometime between 1820 and 1825, and that was the beginning of the end.

The Atlantic halibut fishery was a boom and bust deal. The fish were first pursued inshore. As with most fisheries, the biggest fish were the first to go, resulting in smaller average body size and dramatically reduced biomass. When stocks began noticeably declining (around 1839), fishermen moved offshore. By 1850, there were so few halibut left that it was no longer profitable for small boats to fish. In a last-ditch, desperate effort, the fishery was extended to deeper waters (600 – 1200 ft.) on Georges Bank in 1875. The only populations that maintained their numbers lived on even deeper slopes, out of the reach of fishing gear.

In 1996, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature classified Atlantic halibut as endangered. NOAA followed suit in 2004 with a “Species of Concern” listing, acknowledging severe population decline, but withholding Endangered Species Act protections due to species data deficiencies. Today, thanks to careful fishing regulations under the Northeast Multispecies Fishery Management Plan, populations have stabilized enough to be identified as vulnerable.

Atlantic halibut are bottom-oriented fish that have been able to survive by seeking refuge from human exploitation on deep sea slopes, such as in Cashes Ledge. These areas, which were historically fished less intensively than more easily accessible regions, provide vital feeding and breeding grounds to Atlantic halibut and offer them the chance to persist – to sustain viable populations and to recover from a dramatically overfished past. Yet, low existing biomass and slow growth rates mean that this species is still extremely susceptible to overexploitation. We must continue to maintain vigilance in our protections.

To preserve deep sea mountains and canyons is to protect monstrous majesties like the Atlantic halibut.



Special Species Round-Up: 6 Creatures found in Cashes Ledge

If you are familiar with New England Ocean Odyssey, you know we love Cashes Ledge, a majestic 25-mile undersea mountain range and biological hot spot in the Gulf of Maine.Kelp Forest at Cashes Ledge; 70-miles off the coast of Maine

You know that this natural laboratory offers scientists the chance to explore a relatively pristine and unique ecosystem, to discover and observe rare and endangered species, and to hypothesize about what the greater Gulf of Maine looked like before the commercial fishing industry existed.

You know that Ammen Rock, the highest peak in the mountain chain, rises from a depth of 460 feet all the way up into the photic zone (exposure to sunlight), just 40 feet below the ocean’s surface. And you know that Ammen Rock disrupts the dominant Gulf of Maine current, swirling nutrient- and oxygen-rich waters from the seafloor to the top of the water column, providing ideal conditions for a huge array of marine life including sponges, corals, anemones, predatory fish, sharks, whales, and more.

But what specific special species reside at Cashes Ledge, and what migratory visitors stop by throughout the year? Let’s dive a little deeper and find out!

1. (Unclassified) Blue Sponge

This species is so incredibly rare, it hasn’t even been sighted anywhere apart from the rocky walls of Cashes Ledge, let alone taxonomically classified. Needless to say, we have a lot to learn about this species. Cashes is also home to a variety of bright red, orange, and yellow sponges, including mounding sponges as big as footballs! Cod and Invertebrates

Cod swim under a wall of sponges and other invertebrates. Image via NOAA/ONMS

Sponges are primitive creatures that latch on to hard surfaces anywhere from the intertidal zone to the deep ocean floor. They filter feed by absorbing tiny organisms through incurrent (think “inbound”) pores and excreting waste through excurrent (“outbound”) pores. Many sponges can reproduce either sexually or asexually.


2. Red Cod

You’ve read about, seen, and probably eaten Atlantic cod…but have you ever heard of red Atlantic cod? While genetic testing has yet to determine if this variation is a distinct species, Graham Sherwood, Research Scientist at the Gulf of Maine Research Institute in Portland, Maine, hypothesizes that it is not. All cod eat high levels of carotenoids (natural pigments found in organisms such as crabs and worms), so it’s no surprise that some cod are red in color. But why are some red while most are olive-colored?

Kelp Forest and Cod at Cashes Ledge; 70-miles off the coast of Maine

Kelp Forest and Red Cod at Cashes Ledge; 70-miles off the coast of Maine

An olive cod (top) and a red cod (bottom) swim through kelp forests at Cashes Ledge. Images via Brian Skerry for New England Ocean Odyssey.
Sherwood’s theory is that the red coloring is an adaptive advantage. Red cod typically permanently reside in shallower kelp forests, while olive-colored cod roam around deeper waters in the North Atlantic. The red coloring may be a U/V protectant or a form of camouflage for shallower waters. We’ll have to stay tuned to find out if red cod are a separate species, or if they are just a colorful variation of olive-colored Atlantic cod.

Check out more Brian Skerry photos of red and olive-colored cod at Cashes Ledge.


3. Christmas Anemone

Urticina crassicornis, the Christmas anemone, resides on rock faces at depths up to about 100 feet and may grow to be a foot tall and 8 inches in diameter. It feeds on crabs, urchins, mussels, gastropods, chitons, barnacles, and fish by stinging and stunning prey with venomous cells found in the anemone’s tentacles.

The candy-striped shrimp, Lebbeus grandimanus, is immune to the Christmas anemone’s sting; the two organisms live in a commensal relationship whereby the anemone provides shelter for the shrimp, and the shrimp does not affect the anemone.

Red Anemone A Northern red anemone on a rock wall at Cashes Ledge. CLF/Brett Seymour.





4. Porbeagle

Cod and InvertebratesPorbeagle, Lamna nasus. Credit NMFS/E. Hoffmayer, S. Iglésias and R. McAuley.

No, that’s not a white shark – it’s the great white’s lesser known relative, the porbeagle, Lamna nasus. The porbeagle can be easily distinguished from a white shark by its second dorsal fin (that tiny second bump on the shark’s back before its tail). These big guys can grow up to 11 ½ feet long and are highly migratory throughout the Northwest Atlantic. They tend to stay out of shallow waters along the coast, preferring pelagic waters from the surface to depths of 1000 feet. In the Gulf of Maine, they feed on mackerel, herring, other small fish and sharks, and squids.

NOAA listed the porbeagle as a “Species of Concern” for the Northwest Atlantic stock in 2006, the same year that the International Union for the Conservation of Nature listed the subpopulation as endangered. Since the 1960s, overfishing has been a major threat to porbeagles, which are slow-growing with low productivity rates, making it difficult for populations to recover. In the U.S., the species is managed by the Highly Migratory Species Fishery Management Plan. NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service is currently reviewing two 2010 proposals to list the porbeagle on the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife under the Endangered Species Act.


5. North Atlantic Right Whale

The waters off the coast of New England get some magnificent, gigantic visitors. Endangered North Atlantic Right Whales, Eubalaena glacialis, hang out around New England and the Bay of Fundy in the summer and fall to feed on zooplankton and raise their young. They move about the Gulf of Maine in a regular pattern, often stopping at Cashes Ledge, where regular circulation of the water column produces plankton-rich waters. In the winter months, the whales typically migrate to birthing grounds in the coastal waters off the southeastern United States.

The North Atlantic Right Whale was subject to intensive whaling from the 1500s through 1935; populations off the east coast of North America are still struggling to recover, due in large part to boat collisions and entanglement in fishing gear.

North Atlantic Right Whale with Provincetown lighthouse (Long Point) in the backgroundA North Atlantic Right Whale in Cape Cod Bay in front of Provincetown, MA. Image via Brian Skerry for New England Ocean Odyssey.



6. Bubble Gum Coral

Deep-water coral colonies thrive in the cold, nutrient-rich waters of Cashes Ledge. Paragorgia arborea, nicknamed bubble gum coral for its pink color, is a fan-shaped coral (aka “sea fan”…creative, right?) that typically inhabits exposed locations at depths of 600 to 4,300 feet. It can grow up to six meters tall, making it a real treasure for divers to spot. At Cashes Ledge, Paragorgia inhabits the hard-bottom basalt substrate.

Deep sea corals grow slowly and may live to be thousands of years old, making them extremely susceptible to lasting damage from bottom trawlers. One sweep of a trawl net can destroy centuries of growth – a problem not only for the corals, but also for the marine species that use the corals as a nursery and refuge habitat.


Paragorgia colonies in the New England Seamount chain. Image via NOAA Ocean Explorer.

These are just six of the marvelous, charismatic species that depend on the nutrient-rich waters of Cashes Ledge. If we are to protect them, we must start by protecting Cashes Ledge.