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Summer 1997

Sanctuary Currents
More Effective Tuna Management Tools Adopted
Bluefin Tuna Fishing Categories
Research Briefs
Education Digest


Sanctuary Currents

Protecting Important Habitats in the Gulf of Maine
The Sanctuary was an active participant in a Gulf of Maine Council on the Marine Environment workshop on Marine Protected Areas this past May. Representatives from three states (Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine), two provinces (New Brunswick and Nova Scotia) and U.S. and Canadian federal agencies met to discuss the potential interest in and/or need for development of a network of marine protected areas around the Gulf. These areas would be selected for their importance to the protection of endangered or economically important species, such as right whales, Irish moss, and groundfish spawning grounds. By definition, marine protected areas are: any areas of intertidal or subtidal terrain together with their overlying waters and associated plants, animals, and historical and cultural features, which have been reserved by legislation to manage and protect part or all of the enclosed environments. Such areas may include a range of protection levels, such as: strict protection; ecosystem conservation and recreation; conservation of natural features; conservation through active management; landscape/seascape conservation and recreation; and sustainable use of natural ecosystems. Initial funding for this work has been provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (which also administers the Sanctuary Program) and a grant through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Further support for this program is expected from the Council, NOAA, and the Stellwagen Bank Sanctuary.

Coastal Zone '97
The bienniel international conference for coastal issues will be held in Boston this year. Coastal Zone '97 The Next 25 Years: Charting the Future of Coastal Zone Management will include panel discussions on: linking science to public policy and coastal management; assessing human impacts on resource management; protecting habitats for living marine resources; innovations in technology; citizen stewardship programs; cooperative ecosystem management such as the U.S./Canada Gulf of Maine, Great Lakes and Puget Sound programs; and recreation and tourism in the coastal zone; among many topics. The Sanctuary will play a role in the conference by providing its traveling photographic exhibition "Creatures of the Bank: an exploration of the biological diversity of the Stellwagen Bank Sanctuary" and supporting the Monday evening program -- a performance of master storyteller Jay O'Callahan's "Tell Them: The Spirit of the Auk."

Gulf of Maine Times
The first and second issues of the Gulf of Maine Times are available through the Sanctuary Office (as will all future issues) or directly through the Gulf of Maine Council on the Marine Environment (sponsor of the newpaper). The Council provides a forum for the three states and two Canadian provinces that border the Gulf of Maine, and the federal agencies with interests in this geographic region. The summer issue of the Gulf of Maine Times offers articles on watershed preservation partnerships, Machias Seal Island and its bird sanctuary, education resource listings, and environmental news from around the Gulf. To be placed directly on the Times mailing list, write to: Editor, Gulf of Maine Times, 20 Park Plaza, Suite 1112, Boston, MA 02116.

Sanctuary Adds Operations Officer
Steve Kibner, formerly a chief warrant officer with the U.S. Coast Guard (now retired) has been contracted to serve as the Sanctuary's operations officer for the next year. With 30 years of experience in search and rescue cases, Steve brings invaluable expertise to the Sanctuary. He will be charged with running the Sanctuary's vessels -- the 30-foot HAWK and a 21-foot Boston Whaler (no name as yet) -- and serving as a liaison with the Coast Guard which acts as the Sanctuary's enforcement arm. We welcome Steve to the Sanctuary team.

Student Interns at Sanctuary
There's a youth movement at the Sanctuary this summer as several students have begun internships. Liberty Trimarchi, a senior at Southhampton College on Long Island this fall, is studying effects of vessel traffic on whale behavior at Stellwagen Bank. She is a psychobiology major with an interest in pursuing future research in animal behavior. Michael Franklin, a graduate student in Boston University's Program in Science Journalism, serves as contributing editor of Stellwagen Soundings and will be writing a variety of publications during the summer internship. Richard Nadworny and Kirk DeLeboursier, both graduate majors in mass communications at Boston University are contributing to the development on the Sanctuary's CD-ROM on the food web. The Sanctuary welcomes all of these talented students.

Whalewatch Education Meeting
An international group of whalewatch naturalists, researchers and operators met in Provincetown, Mass. in May to discuss the role of education in the growing industry of whale watching. Representing nations as distant as South Africa, Iceland, Brazil, Japan, and Australia, the participants developed recommendations and endorsements for education as an integral part of the whalewatching experience. The meeting was organized by the International Fund for Animal Welfare, based on Cape Cod, and the World Wildlife Fund. The Sanctuary's education coordinator, Anne Smrcina, was invited to participate as an official observer.

Right Whales Make Early Visit, Early Exit
The northern right whales made an early visit to Massachusetts waters this year, arriving in Cape Cod Bay in late January. The first mother-calf pair appeared on Feb. 15, a full week earlier this year than any previous year. Unfortunately for local researchers, the early arrivals did not mean a longer season -- for the whales also left a few weeks sooner than in past years. One possible reason for the departure was a major bloom of the nuisance algae Phaeocystis. This thick, slimy surface growth may block sunlight, impede the growth of other phytoplankton and discourage the arrival of zooplankton, including the right whale's favorite food -- copepods. The bloom did not last long, only a matter of weeks, but by that time the right whales had moved on (some were seen at an area called Wildcat Knoll, which is northeast of the Sanctuary, and others continued on to a well-known feeding area, the Great South Channel). Phaeocystis blooms have been recorded regularly throughout the past century, although there are some concerns that increases in pollution may support or prolong larger amounts of growth.

Names for Hurricanes
The official 1997 hurricane season started on June 1 and runs through the end of October. The names for this year's storms, selected from library sources and agreed upon by the World Meteorological Organization are: Ana, Bill, Claudette, Danny, Erika, Fabian, Grace, Henri, Isabel, Juan, Kate, Larry, Mindy, Nicholas, Odette, Peter, Rose, Sam, Teresa, Victor, Wanda.

More Effective Tuna Management Tools Adopted

The National Marine Fisheries Service has adopted a series of sweeping proposals to more effectively manage the valuable and highly-competitive Atlantic bluefin tuna fishery for 1997.

The fisheries service finalized a new tuna permit program to improve collection of information about the number of fish caught and the amount of fishing effort; prohibited bluefin tuna fishing by General category permit holders on restricted fishing days and prohibited retention of smaller size fish by General category fishers; and split the Angling large school/small medium and trophy category quotas into North/South subquotas. The fisheries service is still reviewing the public comments received concerning the proposed prohibition on the use of spotter aircraft.

The new changes to the regulations are the result of comments and suggestions from fishermen and other interest groups. "I am pleased by all the good advice we received from those interested in the future of Atlantic bluefin tunas," said Rolland Schmitten, fisheries service director. "These new regulations will improve our management of this fishery."

The changes to the Angling category regulations are expected to allow fishermen from a greater geographical area to pursue bluefin tuna for a longer period of time and lengthen the fishing season. [Tuna are highly migratory, possibly spawning the the Gulf of Mexico, then moving north to feed. Some may even circumnavigate the Atlantic. Although recreational fishing had occurred in both regions of the U.S. east coast, a fast-growing southern industry had begun to make a significant dent in the national quota before the tuna even reached northern waters.]

Under the new regulations, the recreational quotas for large school-small medium and large medium-giant (trophy) Atlantic bluefin tuna quotas have been allocated as: 53% of landings to the northern region and 47% to the southern region (the dividing line is 38 degrees, 47 minutes North Latitude or just south of New Jersey).

In recent years, the fisheries service has also received substantial comment concerning the number of active vessels fishing for tunas. Fleet size estimation is considered an important element in the current recreational monitoring system. Therefore, the fisheries service has developed a new automated tuna permit system. Permits renewed under the automated system are valid through Dec. 31, 1997. Permit holders who have not yet renewed permits through the automated system must obtain valid permits for 1997 by Sept. 1. All permit holders must renew their permits annually and are available by calling 888-USA-TUNA.


Bluefin Tuna Fishing Categories

  • General: a commercial category; primarily rod & reel, cannot catch small (school) tuna; permittees can catch as many fish as possible until the quota is met; must not fish on restricted days (based on school migrations as well as Japanese holidays).
  • Angling: a recreational category; rod & reel primarily; trophy fish cannot be sold; can target either school or larger (commercial) categories; various quotas for different fish sizes in different regions.
  • Harpoon: a commercial category; only fish 73" or larger; catch unlimited until quota met.
  • Incidental from longlining: untargeted take from longlines (a lenghty line with many baited hooks used to catch a variety of species); no small (school) fish allowed; catch unlimited until quota met.
  • Purse Seine: a commercial category in which a net is drawn up and around a school of fish; very limited number of permits, strict fish size requirements: cannot land fish less than 73 inches or greater than xx inches)
  • Reserve: a portion of the quota used as a buffer, to prevent the total tuna catch from topping the national allotment of fish (which would result in ICCAT imposed penalties on the U.S.)

Up until now some boat owners held more than one type of permit. After January 1, 1998 that will no longer be allowed. Those individuals seeking permits will have to select one category only.

Fish Sizes
(total curved fork length & approx. round weight)

Young School: less than 27 inches; less than 14 lbs.
School: 27 to less than 47 inches; 14 to less than 66 lbs.
Large School: 47 to less than 59 inches; 66 to less than 135 lbs.
Small Medium: 59 to less than 73 inches; 135 to less than 235 lbs.
Large Medium: 73 to less than 81 inches; 235 to less than 310 lbs.
Giant: 81 inches or greater; 310 lbs. or greater

Bluefin Tuna 1997 Catch Limits

-----------------Tuna------------ -----------------Permit Category----------------
Size Classes Angling Charter/Party Boat General
Young School or Small Medium Prohibited Prohibited Prohibited
School, Large School or Small Medium* 1/vessel/day 1/vessel/day 1/vessel/day
Large Medium or Giant** 1/vessel/year 1/vessel/day 1/vessel/day

* Recreational Season starts January 1. No sale of School, Large School and Small Medium bluefin
** Commercial Season starts June 1. Large Medium and Giant bluefin may be sold by Charter/Party Boats amd General category vessels. Once a Large Medium or Giant bluefin tuna is retained, fishing must cease and the vessel must return to port. Angling category boats may take one Large Medium or Giant bluefin tuna per year provided it is reported to the National Marine Fisheries Service and is not sold.

Research Briefs

Students Begin Monitoring of Sanctuary Water
Aspiring student scientists have made Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary their research laboratory as they study the Sanctuary's waters. The information may help in monitoring how the Sanctuary environment is changing over time and how human activity may be impacting the Sanctuary.

The Sea Education Association (SEA), a non-profit marine educational institution located in Woods Hole, Mass., offers opportunities for undergraduates to learn about marine science first-hand. Rich Maletesta, Faculty Oceanographer at SEA, volunteered the services of these young scientists to the Sanctuary early this year.

Over the course of each semester, students will periodically profile the water column in two areas of the Sanctuary, one eastern and one western site, using a large underwater instrument called a hydrocast. The instrument collects data on water temperature and salinity and measures chlorophyll pigment as an indication of the amount of phytoplankton, which is the foundation of the food web in the Sanctuary. Students also use the hydrocast to measure the level of phosphates in the water. Phosphate is an essential nutrient for phytoplankton, but at higher levels it can have negative effects by stimulating too much growth. Scientists are particularly interested in the phosphate levels at the western site since a sewage treatment plant will soon begin dumping treated waste water from a nine-mile pipe out of Boston (some 16 miles from the Sanctuary's western boundary). Monitoring of the Sanctuary water may reveal if these phosphates are affecting the marine ecosystem over time.

Studies of Seafloor Habitats Continue
Biologists and geologists will be studying seafloor habitats in the Sanctuary during a July cruise by the ABLE J, a research vessel based in Boston, Mass. Scientists from the National Undersea Research Center at the University of Connecticut and the U. S. Geological Survey will be investigating a type of habitat called "clay pipes" that gill netters have targeted for years. Whether these areas are important habitats for invertebrates and fishes, or just an area that draggers have avoided (thereby making them more accessible for other gear types) will be assessed in this research. This is the third year of a project that is looking at variations of landscapes and effects on the distribution and abundance of fishes. In addition, researchers will use a remotely-operated vehicle to retrace transects from a 1985 study (originally done with a submersible) to observe changes over time to the seafloor.

USGS Releases Dump Site Map
A new map from the U.S. Geological Survey shows Topography, Backscatter and Interpretation of Sea Floor Features in the Massachusetts Bay Disposal Site (adjacent to the Sanctuary). Based on 1995 surveys of Massachusetts Bay, the map will be used for managing and monitoring at the dump site. Copies of the publication, Open-File Report 96-273 by Page Valentine, William Danforth, Edwin Roworth and Sara Stillman, are available from the Sanctuary or the USGS. The map was produced in cooperation with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.


Education Digest

Naturalist Seminars Started
A new lecture series, designed primarily for whalewatch naturalists, has been instituted by the Sanctuary in conjunction with the New England Aquarium. The first round of talks offered participants information on right whales and bluefin tuna in local waters; background information on the Sanctuary and its research, enforcement, and education programs; and a look at seafloor habitats and fish communities. The Sanctuary plans on extending and expanding this lecture program with further talks throughout the whale watching season. Naturalists are encouraged to contact the Sanctuary for more information on this free program.

MIMIFest Numbers Grow
The 3rd annual Plymouth MIMIFest brought over 2,000 students, teachers and chaperones to the coast during the third week of May for a series of activities tied to "The Voyage of the MIMI" curriculum. Sponsored by the Sanctuary and The Barn School, the Fest offered programs in scrimshaw, knot-tying, survival at sea, and whale identification. Students were treated to a harbor cruise and toured the MIMI vessel as well as the adjacent MAYFLOWER at the State Pier. Peter Marston, aka Captain Granville (star of the book and video), met with eager students to discuss issues of interdependency and care for the environment. Each year the number of participants grows as more schools learn about the program. Sanctuary is now making plans for next year's MIMIFest. Any teachers interested in participating with their students should contact the Sanctuary office for registration materials.

Stellwagen Bank Conference Planned
On October 25th, the Sanctuary is sponsoring a major Science and Education Symposium on Stellwagen Bank at the University of Massachusetts, Boston Harbor Campus. The event will incorporate the annual Massachusetts Bay/Boston Harbor Educators Conference. From shipwrecks to geological exploration, the program will provide a wide variety of topics impacting on the Sanctuary. Intended for teachers, researchers, and graduate students, the symposium will offer four morning strands of talks on: cetacean studies; biological sciences; geology and physical sciences; and social sciences. The afternoon will be filled with wide-ranging workshops designed for educators. The event is co-sponsored by the Massachusetts Marine Educators, the Massachusetts Bays Educators Alliance, and the Urban Harbors Institute of the University of Massachusetts. For more information, contact the Sanctuary.

Photo Show Moves to Provincetown
The Sanctuary's photographic exhibition, "Creatures of the Bank: an exploration of the biological diversity of the Gerry E. Studds Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary" has opened in Provincetown, Mass. Located in Merchants Hall at 359 Commercial Street (just a short distance from MacMillan Wharf and the whale watching fleet), the show includes stunning underwater photographs by local amateur and professional photographers. The Center for Coastal Studies is hosting the exhibit; Ian MacMillan is donating the exhibit space. Previously, the show opened in December on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC at the House and Senate Office Buildings, and then moved to the Cape Cod Museum of Natural History. The show is free to the public.

Spirit of the Auk: Sanctuary Supports O'Callahan Story
An extinct bird is finding new life in the art of storytelling. When Richard Wheeler undertook his 1,400-mile-long trek from Newfoundland to Cape Cod following the migration route of the Great Auk, he related his tale to Jay O'Callahan. This master storyteller was captured by the message and drama of the account and decided to make it part of his repetoire. Thus, "Tell Them: The Spirit of the Auk" was created. The Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary helped fund development of the story as part of a larger curriculum package based on the voyage (which was also turned into a NOVA show entitled "The Haunted Cry of a Long Gone Bird"). Using the auk as a metaphor for the cod and other groundfish, Wheeler brought attention to the plight of groundfish stocks and the fishing communities that are dependent on them. The curriculum package will, in addition to the auk and cod, focus on the right whale and issues of extinction, survival, abundance, and sustainable use of resources.

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