Seas Expeditions Will Explore Sanctuaries
Agenda for the Oceans Released
Noted Marine Explorer to Visit Sanctuary
Coast Guard Auxiliary-Sanctuary Flotilla
Update on Northern Right Whales--A Species on
Understanding the Demand for Whalewatching in
Fishery Closure Provides Unique Research Opportunity
From Sea to Shining Sea -- News from the Nation's
Sanctuary Studies--White-sided Dolphins 101
Seas Expeditions Will Explore Sanctuaries
nation's 12 National Marine Sanctuaries, including Stellwagen
Bank, will be the sites for a new research and education initiative
entitled "Sustainable Seas Expeditions."
five-year, multi-million dollar private-public partnership initiated
by the National Geographic Society, the Richard and Rhoda Goldman
Fund and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will
explore the huge underwater rim of the United States embraced
within the Exclusive Economic Zone (within 200 miles of the coast)
with emphasis on the nation's National Marine Sanctuaries.
National Marine Sanctuaries are often considered the aquatic equivalents
of U.S. National Parks or National Forests.
Sustainable Seas Expeditions will use new submersibles and special
deep water research techniques to link observations made at sea
to a communication network among various institutions and classrooms
across the country. Dr. Sylvia Earle, a noted marine explorer
and scientist, will lead the expeditions into the sanctuaries'
watery depths. She will be working from "Deep Worker,"
a one-person craft with a clear acrylic dome over the pilot's
head and shoulders, a touch-screen control system, photo and video
capabilities and mechanical arms for collecting samples.
second Deep Worker with a Sanctuary staff scientist or Sanctuary-affiliated
researcher will accompany Dr. Earle on her dives for technical
support and safety requirements.
goals of this program are to: explore the nation's underwater
realms; to create awareness about the inextricable link between
human health and ocean health; and to inspire an ethic of care
and protection for the natural aquatic systems that are vital
to human needs.
systematic exploration of the nation's marine sanctuaries
will provide new insights into how ocean systems operate,"
reports Brad Barr, Stellwagen Bank Sanctuary Manager. "In
some cases, Deep Worker dives will explore areas previously unseen
by human eyes," he notes. "But in other sites, including
Stellwagen Bank, the dives will provide supplementary data that
can help scientists better interpret information collected in
previous research cruises."
all of the Stellwagen Bank Sanctuary has been mapped through recent
U.S. Geological Survey and National Undersea Research Center cruises,
less than five percent of the global sea has been fully explored.
The outgrowth of this exploration, both local and global, has
led to an ever expanding set of questions about physical and biological
processes rather than a definitive set of answers. The more we
find out, the more we realize how complicated our planet's
oceans really are and how much of an effect they have on our everyday
lives. The 1997-98 El Nino phenomenon confirmed the powerful influence
the seas have on the planet. In recent years, awareness has grown
of the significance of the ocean as the driving force behind climate,
weather, planetary chemistry and fundamental life support functions.
Sustainable Seas Expeditions program is a public-private alliance
forged by the urgent need for a national commitment to assess
and understand the nature of the sea in ways that fully complement
the nation's commitment to the exploration of space.
this cooperative initiative, most of the financial burden will
be met through contributions from private foundations and industry.
Support from the U.S. government will come primarily from the
reallocation of existing resources to facilitate the effort.
initial grant of $5 million has been made by the San Francisco-based
Goldman Fund, which has been complemented by a $775,000 commitment
from the National Geographic Society, along with significant in-kind
communication and outreach resources. NOAA will contribute in-kind
personnel, ship support and other services and expertise totaling
approximately $2.5 million.
the announcement of this program in April, several major marine
institutions have indicated their willingness to help support
the Expeditions, including: the U.S. Navy; NASA (through the Mission
to Planet Earth program); the Jason Foundation; the Monterey Bay
Aquarium Research Institute; Mote Marine Laboratory; the Center
for Marine Conservation and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.
Discussions are underway with other agencies, foundations, educational
and research institutions and industry to further aid the program.
its great research and education potential, the most important
benefit of the Sustainable Seas Expeditions program will be to
focus public attention on the importance of the ocean to all of
us, and thus inspire a national commitment to understand and care
for the natural systems that sustain us.
for the Oceans Released
Center for Marine Conservation and over 120 other groups released
an Agenda for the Oceans that spells out the most important actions
the United States must take to protect its ocean waters and wildlife.
Sent to President Clinton on May 27th, the groups called for adoption
of the recommendations at the National Oceans Conference in Monterey,
California on June 11-12.
on the Agenda were the following action items: protect and restore
America's ocean waters and public health by strengthening
the Clean Water Act; revitalize America's marine fisheries
by stopping overfishing, reducing bycatch and protecting essential
fish habitats; protect endangered marine wildlife by strengthening
and adequately funding the Endangered Species Act and Marine Mammal
Protection Act; expand and strengthen the national marine sanctuaries
and protect other critical marine areas; protect America's
coral reefs; spur international efforts to protect the oceans
by ratifying and implementing the Law of the Sea and other agreements;
fashion a U.S. ocean policy for the 21st century that promotes
stewardship and education by passing the Oceans Act of 1997 and
creating an Ocean Policy Commission; increase funding for ocean
research and management; eliminate federal subsidies for activities
that harm the environment such as federal flood insurance for
development on environmentally sensitive coastal barrier islands;
and explore America's marine waters to fully inventory and
map wildlife and habitats.
Among the more than 120 groups participating in the development
of the Agenda were: the Natural Resources Defense Council, American
Oceans Campaign, Seaweb, Environmental Defense Fund, Greenpeace
and the World Wildlife Fund.
Marine Explorer to Visit Sanctuary
biologist Sylvia Earle sometimes known as "Her Deepness"
is the 1998 explorer-in-residence at the National Geographic
Society. A major focus of her work for the Society will be support
for the new multi-year Sustainable Seas Expeditions.
Earle has pioneered research on the ecology of marine ecosystems
and had led more than 50 expeditions, amounting to 6,000 hours
underwater. She also holds numerous diving records, including
several to depths of 3,000 feet in a one-man submersible called
explorer-in-residence to National Geographic and Project Director
for the Sustainable Seas Expeditions, Dr. Earle will be using,
what she calls "an elegant cross between a submersible and
a diving suit" to reach depths of 2,000 feet in the sanctuaries.
Her dives in the Stellwagen Bank Sanctuary will be a lot more
shallow, perhaps 200-300 feet. Those dives are tentatively scheduled
for October 1999 for observations of fish populations in rock
reefs that cannot be observed through traditional submersible
or remotely-operated-vehicle operations.
preparation for those future dives, Dr. Earle is touring the sanctuaries
this summer and fall to understand issues and touch base with
sanctuary staff, researchers, educators and the public. The former
chief scientist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
(1990-1992) is scheduled to visit Stellwagen Bank later in the
on August 30, 1935 in Gibbstown, N.J., Sylvia Earle earned a bachelor's
degree from Florida State University and a master's and doctorate
from Duke University. She has also been awarded nine honorary
doctoral degrees. She is the author of the 1995 book, "Sea
Earle follows two other explorers-in-residence: polar explorer
Will Steger (1996) and high-altitude archaeologist Johan Reinhard
(1997). Explorers-in-residence work at the National Geographic
Society's Washington, D.C. headquarters on scientific research
projects, exhibits, lectures, magazine and television projects
and books. They also carry out exploration under the banner of
Guard AuxiliarySanctuary Flotilla Formed
flotilla of Coast Guard Auxiliarists will be patrolling the Sanctuary
this summer as part of a new and unique interagency partnership.
Sanctuary, administered under the National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration of the Department of Commerce, and the Coast Guard,
under the Department of Transportation, have agreed to pool resources
and support a new flotilla dedicated to the Stellwagen Bank National
Marine Sanctuary. Coast Guard Auxiliary flotillas are usually
based in single home ports or in small regions. In this case,
the flotilla of boats will be berthed in various locations along
the coast, but will be charged with patrolling the Sanctuary,
located totally within federal waters between Cape Ann and Cape
Cod. Both sea and air patrols will be supported.
First Coast Guard District had been providing patrols in the Sanctuary
as the primary enforcement arm, focusing on sanctuary regulations
and endangered species violations. However, Brad Barr, Sanctuary
manager, requested additional support because of the large concentration
of boats in Sanctuary waters and the large expanse (842 square
miles or 638 square nautical miles) of the site.
solution was to make use of the Coast Guard's large volunteer
force. While not capable of any direct law enforcement actions,
the Auxiliary can report and document violations to appropriate
Coast Guard units or Sanctuary personnel. The primary mission,
however, will be to provide education to boaters and to monitor
tasking of the Auxiliary was made possible under a 1996 law which
encompassed support of Coast Guard civil missions, including marine
safety and security, environmental protection, and support of
other federal agencies. The Auxiliary boat and plane patrols will
check to see that Sanctuary regulations are being followed and
will note the presence of marine mammals. This timely presence
will give the Sanctuary a better picture of visitor uses of the
area, and provide a visible presence to deter potential violations
vessels and aircraft are also authorized to provide platforms
for support of Sanctuary research, including whale behavior studies,
tagging programs, water quality and other environmental monitoring.
The crews will provide outreach to the boating public through
distribution of Sanctuary-prepared literature packets and personal
communication. The Sanctuary staff will play a major role in the
Auxiliary training program. In an additional training opportunity,
several whalewatching operations have donated passage to Auxiliarists
to familiarize them with the environment. Companies participating
in the program are: Yankee Fleet (Gloucester), Boston Harbor Cruises
and New England Aquarium Whalewatch (Boston), Captain Mac (Scituate),
Captain John Boats (Plymouth), and Dolphin Fleet (Provincetown).
certain Auxiliary vessels will be allowed to join the Sanctuary
flotilla. These boats must be at least 32 feet in length and contain
a minimum qualified boat crew of four (one of whom may be a trainee).
One qualified Sanctuary Observer must also be aboard.
Sanctuary is providing two sets of transferable gear for use on
the patrols. These kits will include inflatable rafts, video cameras,
pumps and other safety and monitoring equipment. Patrols will
begin this summer and continue into the fall.
to Begin Management Plan Review this Fall
Management plans are the site-specific documents that the National
Marine Sanctuary Program uses to manage individual sanctuaries.
These plans set priorities, contain regulations, present existing
programs and projects, and guide the development of future activities.
Beginning this fall, the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary
will begin its management plan review. We are the second sanctuary
to undergo this process which is expected to take about 18 months
from inception to production of a revised plan. Public involvement
through open meetings, scoping sessions and written comments will
be sought throughout the process. Members of the sanctuary community
can assist us by identifying issues and potential solutions, reviewing
the draft management plan and providing us with comments and recommendations
for the final plan. If you are interested in participating in
this process, please return the survey form on page 2 of this
newsletter with the appropriate box checked off.
Issue of Gulf of Maine Times Available
The summer issue of the Gulf of Maine Times, a publication produced
by the Gulf of Maine Council on the Marine Environment, is now
available. Articles in the issue include: groundfish surveys by
the National Marine Fisheries Service, mud flat ecosystems, eelgrass,
and ballast water as a vehicle for the invasion of exotic species.
For a free subscription to this publication, contact the Times
editor at: Gulf of Maine Times, 20 Park Plaza, Suite 1112, Boston,
MA 02116, phone 617-728-0543, fax 617-728-0545, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Monitoring Studied at MIT
Students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) developed
an extensive monitoring plan for the Stellwagen Bank Sanctuary
as part of a graduate class in ocean engineering. Funded by MIT
Sea Grant, the project provided the Sanctuary with a well researched
plan at no cost to the Sanctuary and gave the class experience
in a real-life situation. The program is the subject of an article
in the Fall/Winter 1997 issue of NOR'EASTER, Magazine of the
Northeast Sea Grant Programs. The magazine is available on-line
at http://seagrant.gso.uri.edu/region/NOREASTER/index.html. For
a free copy of the publication, contact the editors at: NOR'EASTER,
University of Rhode Island, Rhode Island Sea Grant, Narragansett,
RI 02882-1197, or e-mail email@example.com.
What do you do when you see a whale tied up in line? You call
the pros. The pros are the whale disentanglement team of the Center
for Coastal Studies in Provincetown, Mass., the only federally
licensed organization on the east coast that can perform these
Friday, May 15, a whalewatch vessel out of Gloucester, the Miss
Cape Ann, spotted a whale anchored by gillnet gear which was wrapped
around its tail. The whale was located about six miles north of
Provincetown in the southwestern corner of the Sanctuary. With
easy access (compared to many other rescues further out at sea)
the team was able to make its way via 15-foot inflatable to the
whale as several whalewatch and Coast Guard vessels kept watch.
The team attached buoys to the gear to keep the whale from diving.
As the whale tired, the rescuers were able to get close enough
to cut away several of the lines. As the whale sped away, rescuers
followed close behind for several miles to determine that all
of the gear had fallen off and could not present further problems.
heavy gear was marked with buoys to allow recovery by the National
Marine Fisheries Service. Since the area was officially closed
to gillnet gear up until that date, the Fisheries Service wants
to know if the whale dragged the gear in from legal fishing areas
or was caught in illegally set nets. Regulations on legal gillnets
require modifications to limit the possibility of entanglement.
If this was that type of gear, the researchers would like to determine
why it did not work as expected.
boaters should come across an entangled whale they should never
attempt a disentanglement on their own. A call to the disentanglement
HOTLINE at 800-900-3622 or the Coast Guard will alert the proper
authorities. The boater can assist the effort by staying on station
to keep track of the whale and providing up-to-date tracking information
to the rescue team.
Fishing Survey In Development
The National Marine Fisheries Service is currently accepting proposals
from contractors who are interested in conducting the 1999-2001
Marine Recreational Fisheries Statistics Survey. The survey will
be conducted through telephone interviews of 283,000 households
and 56,000 dockside interviews with fishermen. The survey has
been conducted since 1979 and is used to help assess how recreational
fishing benefits the nation's economy and to provide trends
in landings and angler participation in fisheries. Previous surveys
indicate that more than 200 million pounds of fish are taken eah
year on about 70 million saltwater fishing trips by 17 million
June 1 marked the start of the 1998 Hurricane Season. NOAA's
National Hurricane Center near Miami, Florida keeps a constant
watch on oceanic storm-breeding areas for tropical disturbances
that may herald the formation of a hurricane. If a disturbance
intensifies into a tropical storm (with rotary circulation and
wind speeds above 39 miles per hour), the Center will give the
storm a name. The 1998 list of names, agreed upon during meetings
of the World Meteorologica Organization, are: Alex, Bonnie, Charley,
Danielle, Earl, Frances, Georges, Hermine, Ivan, Jeanne, Karl,
Lisa, Mitch, Nicole, Otto, Paula, Richard, Shary, Tomas, Virginie,
on Northern Right Whales A Species on the Brink
numbers from the calving grounds this past winter were not exactly
encouraging — possibly five mother-calf pairs and one calf that
was stillborn or died shortly after birth. Bad weather and poor
sighting conditions may have contributed to the low numbers, but
few sightings of calves in northern waters this spring (and none
in Cape Cod Bay) seem to reinforce the pessimism.
the northern right whale is probably the great whale closest to
extinction, with only about 300 individuals in the North Atlantic
population and even fewer in the North Pacific. With this knowledge,
and the fact that the number one known cause of right whale deaths
is collisions with ships, researchers and regulators developed
a ship reporting program for U.S. critical habitats.
On April 23, President Clinton approved the proposal and will
submit it to the International Maritime Organization for their
consideration and approval. The plan would require commercial
vessels over 150 feet or 300 gross tons to report to the Coast
Guard when entering either the northeast critical habitat (encompassing
the Great South Channel, southern Stellwagen Bank Sanctuary and
Cape Cod Bay) or southeastern habitat (Georgia and north Florida).
Reporting information includes name, call sign, course, speed,
location and destination. The report would trigger an automatic
response from the Coast Guard with basic information on right
whales and most up-to-date information on sightings.
President's support for the program overrode objections from
advisers in the Department of Defense and National Security Council
who feared loss of security for military ships. Another argument
focused on the idea that other countries might attempt to impose
reporting zones and limit freedom of navigation. The wording of
the proposal attempts to minimize this threat by stipulating that
this reporting requirement is an "extraordinary measure"
and not a trivial action. It should be noted that there already
are several reporting areas in other parts of the world, most
notably the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. Supporters suggest
the military's objections could be solved by having voluntary
reporting by Navy vessels so that they would be indistinguishable
from other ships at sea, and the suspension of reporting during
times of conflict.
International Maritime Organization, based in London, is responsible
for international shipping regulations. The proposal will be submitted
in July. This is the first time a whale protection measure has
been proposed to this governing body. Approval, if it does happen,
may take several months, with implementation beginning in July
Also in April, the New England Aquarium held a Shipping/Right
Whale Workshop for which Sanctuary manager Brad Barr was one of
the plenary speakers and chair of the education working group.
Recommendations emanating from this workshop included the need:
to develop and distribute educational materials to the shipping
industry as soon as possible and to develop whale avoidance procedures
for inclusion in the International Safety Management Code; to
delineate critical habitats on NOAA charts and in other shipping
publications (Coast Pilot, Guide to Port Entry); to evaluate the
feasibility for expanding the Early Warning Network of aerial
overflights for whale sightings; to evaluate other technologies
for whale detection or to deter whales from entering dangerous
areas; and to study the feasibility of shifting traffic lanes
to avoid whale concentrations.
first step towards these goals is a right whale information brochure
for mariners developed by the Center for Coastal Studies and the
International Fund for Animal Welfare with funding from MassPort
and the Gulf of Maine Council on the Marine Environment. A sticker
for recreational boaters is being developed by IFAW and the Sanctuary.
Whale Alerts Issued for Second Year in Northeast
This year the National Marine Fisheries Service intensified its
efforts at locating right whales in the northeastern critical
habitat with more numerous aerial surveys. The plane (and occasional
helicopter) patrols also gathered vital research information about
distribution, reproduction, as well as potential entanglements
and mortalities. As in the southern habitat, inclement weather
kept many planes grounded. But sufficient flights showed a minimum
of 85 right whales in and around Cape Cod Bay between January
4 and April 22, and unexpected concentrations of whales in areas
off Block Island and Long Island. In early March, about 30 whales
were seen subsurface skim feeding in Provincetown Harbor. Whales
continue to feed on copepod patches in the Great South Channel,
directly within the east coast shipping lanes.
Sponsors High Speed Vessel Workshop
With an increasing number of high speed vessels crossing Gulf
of Maine waters at speeds of 40 knots and more, whale researchers
have begun to voice concerns. Are the boats going too fast to
spot surfacing whales? Can they stop or change course in time
to avoid a collision? Are boat noises causing acoustic problems
in the ocean? One particular fear was that the use of a high speed
ferry to cross the Bay of Fundy (a primary summer feeding and
breeding ground for the right whale). In an effort to clarify
issues, the Stellwagen Bank Sanctuary hosted a May 11 workshop.
a result of the meeting, whalewatch operators agreed to meet again
to discuss self-regulation measures. And the ferry service in
the Bay of Fundy has hired a consulting firm to develop a voluntary
whale avoidance plan.
Sponsors Sanctuary Exhibit
In a unique public-private partnership, the Independence Mall,
just off Route 3 in Kingston, has developed an exhibit in conjunction
with the Sanctuary. "A Window on the Stellwagen Bank National
Marine Sanctuary," located inside the mall and near the Bradlees
entrance, offers shoppers a look into the wonders of the national
marine sanctuary. Spectacular photographs of species ranging as
large as right whales to as small as phytoplankton (photosynthetic
one-celled organisms) grace the former information desk. Pearls
of marine wisdom as well as nuggets of little-known fact are scattered
around the exhibit. Mall tenants have contributed prizes (movie
tickets, swedish fish candy, gift certificates) to a children's
trivia contest which is based upon the exhibit material. Walden
Books has contributed books to a "read-more-about-it"
display, and will be sponsoring several book fairs in which part
of the day's profits go to sanctuary education programs. The
exhibit will be up until November, and may be reinstalled in January
after the holiday shopping period.
in the Sea on Radio
National Public Radio (NPR) and National Geographic Society have
produced a new CD called "Frontiers in the Sea." The
hour-long program is a Radio Expedition into the nation's
National Marine Sanctuaries. Hosted by Alex Chadwick, the expedition
explores fish habitats in the Stellwagen Bank National Marine
Sanctuary, tracks migrating whales off the California shore, dives
to explore fragile coral reefs in the Florida Keys, and explores
the coastal waters off Georgia with a marine archaeologist. Copies
of the special digital stereo CD are available for sale through
NPR. For more information on NPR, Radio Expeditions, or NPR products,
Geographic Features Sanctuaries
A beetle may have made the cover, but the National Marine Sanctuaries
were the lead story in the March issue of National Geographic
magazine. With its traditionally astonding underwater and surface
photography, National Geographic introduced its readership to
the Sanctuary system. A close-up photo into the mouth of a feeding
humpback whale at Stellwagen Bank leads off the story which covers
the progress, promise and problems associated with each of the
Exhibits On the Move
The Sanctuary's popular traveling photo exhibit, "Creatures
of the Bank: an exploration into the biodiversity of the Stellwagen
Bank National Marine Sanctuary," continues to attract viewers.
Two versions of the show have been booked for the summer. The
Nantucket Whaling Museum installed the exhibit in the main hall
(near their fin whale skeleton), while the Salem National Historic
Site is scheduled to open its version of the exhibit on July 25th.
Smaller subsets of the exhibit are also on display at the New
England Aquarium's education center, the Cape Cod National
Seashore's Eastham Visitor Center, and the Scituate Public
Library. The exhibits were made possible by the gracious donation
of photographs by numerous local professional and amateur photographers.
Photographers wishing to add their works to the exhibition are
invited to contact Anne Smrcina, Sanctuary education coordinator
and exhibit curator at 508-747-1691.
to Sponsor Photo Contest
In honor of the Year of the Ocean, the Stellwagen Bank National
Marine Sanctuary is organizing a photo contest, targeting resources
and uses of marine waters in the Gulf of Maine. Surface and underwater
photographs (color or black & white) of individual species, groups
of species or uses of resources (whalewatching, fishing, boating)
are all possible subjects. Entries can be made into any one of
three categories: student (under 18), college student or adult
(professional and amateur). Contest rules are being finalized
at this time. Contact the sanctuary via phone or e-mail for more
Art Contest Underway for Year of the Ocean
Students in grades K-12 are encouraged to "Get Into It"
and celebrate the Year of the Ocean by participating in the 1998
Massachusetts Marine Educators annual art/poster contest. Entries
will be grouped into the following divisions: K-2, 3-5, 6-8, 9-12
and scientific illustration. The top entrant of all categories
will be named "Best of Show."
include: living and non-living resources (single species, group
of animals, predator-prey, food chain, food web) with particular
attention to local species; or uses of the ocean, including whalewatching,
fishing, bird watching, shipping, boating, diving and research.
New England Aquarium, co-sponsor of the contest, is graciously
providing aquarium passes to the winners, as well as Behind the
Scenes passes for the Best of Show award. The Sanctuary will provide
certificates to all participants, award certificates to the winners,
a copy of the book "Stellwagen Bank: A Guide to the Whales
Sea Birds and Marine Life of the Sanctuary" to the Best of
Show winner and Frontiers of the Sea CD to the teachers of each
first prize winning poster/artwork.
more information about the contest (deadline November 30, 1998)
contact Anne Smrcina, Sanctuary education coordinator, at 508-747-1691
or check the Massachusetts Marine Educators web site at http://www.mme.capecod.com.
Memoriam Norman Despres
The Sanctuary reports with sorrow the death of Norman Despres,
an amateur underwater photographer with a unique talent at capturing
the wonders of the ocean realm. Mr. Despres graciously donated
use of his remarkable photographs for use in the Sanctuary's
traveling photo show, soon-to-be-released CD-ROM on the food web
and other educational products. His "Wolfish in Den"
photo (pictured to the left) was used by Audubon Magazine to illustrate
the species of Stellwagen Bank in a National Marine Sanctuary
article and was selected by NOAA for a "Tour of the Sanctuaries"
brochure. Mr. Despres took delight in showing viewers that the
North Atlantic had its fair share of colorful creatures — such
as "fiberoptic" appearing frilled anemone and otherworldly
"flying" flounder. We will greatly miss this gifted
and creative friend of the oceans. [The Sea Rovers organization
with funding from Fuji Corp. is preparing a retrospective exhibit
of Mr. Despres' works for display later this year, time and
place to be determined.]
the Demand for Whalewatching in the Sanctuary
are almost a million people venturing out into the Stellwagen
Bank National Marine Sanctuary each year. The answer is: to watch
its beginnings in the mid-1970s, whalewatching has grown tremendously
to rank among the New England region's most important recreational
industries. Gross sales revenues reach approximatley $21 million
annually. A study by researchers at the Woods Hole Oceanographic
Institution's Marine Policy Center estimates that more than
860,000 whalewatches originated from Massachusetts during 1996,
with most trips occuring in July and August, but with a season
stretching from April to October. Most of these trips focused
on whales located within the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary.
researchers, Porter Hoagland and Andrew Meeks, conducted a survey
of whalewatch trips during August 1996. Respondents reported that
the number of whales seen was the most attractive feature of whalewatching.
The value of a whalewatching experience cannot be attributed solely
to the viewing of whales, however, as "going on a boat trip"
was also identified as an attractive feature. "Not enough
whales seen" and "boats too far away" were cited
as potential drawbacks.
majority of survey respondents were from the New England region,
but more than one-third of those surveyed were vacationing from
outside the region. More than two-thirds of vacationers (from
New England and elsewhere) had planned to go on a whalewatch as
a part of their vacation. When asked on their trip out about the
importance of whalewatching relative to other activities on their
vacation, vacationers reported that, on average, whalewatching
represented more than one-third of the value of their vacation.
Other highly ranked complementary vacation activities include
going to the beach, shopping, going to museums, visiting relatives,
researchers concluded that the economic value of whalewatching
is on the order of $440 million. Consumer spending per person
per trip is about $26.00, which compares favorably with other
studies of the value of environmental resources.
to the researchers, the higher the travel costs or the higher
the income the less likely the vacationer will go whalewatching,
but the higher the education level the more likely the vacationer
will seek to go out on such a trip. They note that the relationships
between income, education and whalewatching seem at odds, unless
one hypothesizes that higher income groups tend to benefit from
the presence of whales in ways other than through commercial boat
rides or by substituting other forms of enjoyment of the environment
in place of whalewatching (trips on private boats, for example).
appears that the rate of increase in whalewatching capacity has
been fairly constant over the last few years. Hoagland and Meeker
expect whalewatching to grow with increasing economic growth,
but there may be other factors, such as congestion, that limit
the continued growth of the industry. According to their analysis,
the demand for whalewatching may not necessarily expand if coastal
residents become more wealthy. However, demand should expand with
increased education levels. The latter finding suggests that a
policy of raising the level of education could help to maintain
the growth of this particular form of "eco-tourism."
organizations participating in the survey included: Captain John
Boats (Plymouth), Hyannis Whalewatcher (Barnstable), Captain Bill
and Sons (Gloucester), the Dolphin Fleet (Provincetown), the New
England Aquarium (Boston), the East India Cruise Company (Salem),
Captain Mac (Scituate), and the New England Whale Watch (Newburyport).
Closure Provides Unique Research Opportunity
Peter Auster, Sanctuary Research Coordinator and Science Director,
National Undersea Research Center for the North Atlantic and Great
the New England Fishery Management Council closed a 900 square-nautical-mile
area in the Gulf of Maine to groundfishing. The closure, which
went into effect on May 1, 1998, includes eastern Stellwagen Bank
and much of Jeffreys Ledge. This closure is the result of rapid
action by the Council to deal with record low population levels
of Atlantic cod and other commercially important species.
closure provides a unique opportunity to study the effects of
fishing on marine systems. The information produced from such
studies will not only be of use to fishery managers, but may also
answer some pressing questions regarding effects of fishing activity
on biodiversity and the role of protected areas as a tool for
conservation, in particular, the validity of creating protected
areas in cold and temperate marine systems.
closure area, relatively close to the coast, contains the wide
diversity of habitats which are representative of habitats across
the northeast United States continental shelf (the relatively
shallow area between the coast and the deep ocean). The National
Undersea Research Center, the Stellwagen Bank Sanctuary, the U.S.
Geological Survey and the National Marine Fisheries Service (with
colleagues from the Universities of Maine, North Carolina and
Rhode Island) collaborated to fund and conduct a cruise to collect
data on the initial set of conditions at closure. This cruise
took place from April 27-May 10 aboard the F/V CHRISTOPHER ANDREW.
has been focused on four major issues: 1) biological and geological
elements of habitat diversity [differences in animals and types
of seafloor]; 2) differential habitat use and size structure of
fish assemblages (including recruitment of early benthic phase
fishes) [in other words — how different animals use different
parts of the Sanctuary, how many fish are found in different areas,
and where young fish are found]; 3) soft and hard substrate community
structure [what lives on sand and mud, and what lives on rocky
bottoms]; and 4) differential rates of benthic primary production
[where do ocean "plants” grow better on the seafloor].
science team selected 24 sampling stations representing mud, sand,
gravel (pebble-cobble) and boulder habitats. High resolution maps
produced by the U.S. Geological Survey during the past two years
were used for this site selection process, along with previous
experience from submersible and remotely-operated-vehicle (ROV)
studies. There will be both open and closed area stations (3 each)
for all four of the habitat types.
the past, studies of fishing gear impacts to seafloor habitats
in the Gulf of Maine, on Georges Bank and elsewhere around the
globe have shown measurable effects to structural components of
habitat, benthic communities and ecosystem processes. Gear often
removes bottom dwelling creatures and plants, such as sponges,
anemones and kelp. Fish and other animals that once used these
stationary structures for shelter are now more vulnerable and
predator/prey relationships are changed. While this past research
produced information about the types and extent of impacts, it
did not address the rates of these impacts nor the rates of recovery
from chronic (continuing) impacts in the absence of fishing.
ultimate goal of research on gear impacts should not be to retrospectively
evaluate what fishing does to the environment but to confidently
predict cause and effect given a particular managment decision.
If we are to develop regulations about the use of different types
of gear and/or the establishment of no-take (no-fishing) zones,
we must be confident that the data support the decisions.
Sea to Shining Sea--News from the Nation's Marine Sanctuaries
The humpback whales returned in strong numbers again this year,
with Salt and her newest calf among the early arrivals. Salt was
one of the first humpbacks to be named, and has had at least seven
calves over the past two decades. The Sanctuary is working with
the Coast Guard Auxiliary to develop greater awareness among boaters
about whalewatching guidelines and boating safety around marine
mammals in the Sanctuary.
The propeller and shaft were recovered from the wreck of the USS
Monitor by Navy divers on Friday, June 5, and placed aboard the
Kellie Chouest, a vessel provided by the Navy for the 1998 expedition
to the Monitor National Marine Sanctuary. The 5,000-pound, four-blade
propeller will be transported to The Mariners' Museum on June
12 for conservation and eventual exhibition. The ship's anchor,
presently on display, was recovered in 1983. Plans are being formulated
for a possible multi-million dollar rescue attempt in 1999 or
2000 that would shore up the decomposing wreck and recover as
many artifacts as possible from the site which is 230 feet deep.
To see photos of the artifact recovery on the Internet, check
Work continues on the underwater excavation of a mastadon graveyard
within the confines of the Sanctuary. Florida Keys A trail of
history is being blazed in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary
a Shipwreck Trail. Nine shipwreck sites scattered along
the treacherous coral reefs and buried in the sandy shallows have
been researched, located and documented to create the educational
trail. With underwater site guides and extensive support materials,
the program helps visitors appreciate and understand these irreplaceable
remnants of our past. Archaeologists, historians, educators and
divers have joined together to make this unique underwater trail
a reality. For more information on the Shipwreck Trail, contact
the Sanctuary office at 305-852-7717 ext. 24.
Eighteen educators will learn by doing at the third annual "Down
Under, Out Yonder" Workshop, sponsored by the Gulf of Mexico
Foundation's Flower Gardens Fund. Participants, selected through
a competitve process, will study the Flower Garden Banks National
Marine Sanctuary, located 115 miles south of the Texas/Louisiana
border, in both the classroom and the field via scuba diving.
Topics covered include coral reef biology, resource management,
turtle tracking, environmental aspects of oil and gas production,
and reef fish identification.
Scientists, environmentalists, and career fishermen continue to
debate protections needed to stem depletion of the nation's
marine resources already strained by overfishing. A recent proposal
before the California legislature prohibits fishing in about 20%
of the waters surrounding the Channel Islands National Park and
National Marine Sanctuary. If approved by the state Fish and Game
Commission, a National Park Service proposal would forbid fishing
in certain areas off the Channel Islands, turning these spots
into underwater parks for scientific study.
The National Ocean Conference, featuring President Clinton and
Vice President Gore, was held in Monterey, California on June
11-12. The conference was held as a U.S. contribution to the celebration
of the International Year of the Ocean and was organized by Commerce
Secretary William Daley and Navy Secretary John Dalton. Representatives
of academia, environmental groups, business and industry, and
local, state and federal government met (along with similar groups
nationwide via teleconference links) to discuss pressing issues
including overfishing, endangered species and pollution. An agenda
for the ocean, developed by over 120 environmental groups, was
released at the meeting (see related article in the Sanctuary
American Fish Count
This year's Great American Fish Count, scheduled for the first
week of July, will survey several of the National Marine Sanctuaries,
including Florida Keys, Flower Garden Banks, Channel Islands,
Monterey Bay and Gulf of the Farallones. During this week, volunteer
divers from around the country conduct fish surveys and collect
date which is scanned in a computer at the University of Miami
and made available to scientists and resource managers. An established
web page is up and running at http://www.fishcount.org.
Gulf of the Farallones and Cordell Bank
The jointly managed sanctuaries will be hosting a grand opening
of their new visitor center at Crissy Field in the Presidio on
August 30th. The facility provides space for exhibits and programs
relating to research and conservation in the two sanctuaries.
The wide range of species found in these sites will be highlighted.
of the Farallones
Great white shark research will resume this summer with scientists
curious to see if activity returns to normal after last fall's
orca attack. In the first documented interaction between these
two apex predators, an orca killed and ate a white shark near
the Farallones Islands. A whalewatch vessel got a ring-side view
of the orca assault which was video documented by researchers
from the Pt. Reyes Bird Observatory. Soon after the October attack,
white sharks left the area. The sharks normally visit from August
through October to prey on the local population of elephant seal
Dr. Sylvia Earle launched her tour of the National Marine Sanctuaries
as a National Geographic "Explorer-in-Residence" with
a visit to Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary May 14 - 18.
Dr. Earle and Dr. Nancy Foster, director of NOAA's National
Ocean Service, took a boat tour of the rugged Cape Flattery area
to see the seabird colonies, sea otters and gray whales. Dr. Earle
also hosted the Year of the Ocean Student Summit, an event that
brought together 40 middle and high school students from small
towns and Indian reservations of the Olympic Coast to discuss
critical ocean issues. The National Marine Sanctuary Program hopes
to expand the Sustainable Seas Student Initiative through a partnership
with the National Geographic Society, the Jason Foundation, and
the NOAA/National Undersea Research Program.
A 1998 survey covering some 7,191 nautical miles counted 2,558
marine mammals in the waters in and around the Hawaiian Islands
Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary. Among those numbers
were 681 humpbacks of which 44 were calves. Other species spotted
were: spinner dolphins (519), spotted dolphins, pilot whales,
bottlenosed dolphins, melon-headed whales, a record number of
sperm whales (65 including 8 calves), rough-toothed dolphins,
false killer whales, Blainville's beaked whales, Cuvier's
beaked whales, and 3 fin whales including the first sighting ever
of a calf in Hawaiian waters. Survey scientists were concerned
that they only saw one pod of false killer whales (15 individuals),
which is considerably fewer than in previous years. A complete
report is due out by September.
This, the smallest of the National Marine Santuaries, located
in American Samoa in the South Pacific, will be welcoming the
return of the southern humpback whales soon. These whales migrate
to the Antarctic during the southern summer and spend the southern
winter in warmer climes. During the months of August, September
and October the whales come to these waters to calve and mate.
Studies: White-sided Dolphins 101
humpback's blow spout erupted like a geyser about half a mile
away from the whale watching vessel. "Oohs and Aahs"
filled the air with excitement and anticipation. The ship began
moving toward the humpback, but before reaching it, a pod of 150
creatures advanced on and surrounded the ship. Over ten white-sided
dolphins, Lagenorhynchus acutus, jockeyed for position on the
bow wave, only mere inches from the speeding vessel. Occasionally
a dolphin would explode out of the water, reaching heights of
five feet or more. White-sides, as they are sometimes called,
frequently swim near humpback or finback whales, so whale watchers
have a good chance of seeing this playful dolphin.
relatively unfamiliar to the casual observer, these toothed whales
are one of the most common marine mammals in the North Atlantic.
Like most dolphin species, white-sides are also streamlined and
torpedo-shaped. Adult males can reach lengths of 9 feet and weights
of 500 pounds, and scientists believe that females are somewhat
smaller. Though similar in size to other species of dolphin in
Stellwagen Bank waters, white-sides have unique markings. Black
covers all of the back and the pectoral fins; Both flanks are
gray and the underbelly white. Below the black dorsal fin and
running several feet back to the tail, a well-defined, narrow
stripe of white stands out like a white-dashed line on a highway.
A similar yellow or tan patch continues from the end of the white
stripe toward the tail.
highly social dolphin, this mammal usually travels in pods of
50, and it is not unusual to see 500 in one group. Scientists
do not know much about the social structure of pods. There is
some speculation that pods are chiefly composed of adult females
and their offspring, leaving the males to roam about in bachelor
pods. White-sides are often spotted in the Gulf of Maine but are
also seen as far north as Greenland and as far south as North
Carolina. Sadly, much of the knowledge of white-sides comes from
mass strandings—a little understood phenomenon in which an apparently
healthy group of dolphins become stranded on the beach, such as
the recent strandings in North Falmouth and Wellfleet (both on
Cape Cod). Researchers rush to such scenes and collect as much
data as possible from the dead animals. From these studies, scientists
know that white-sides live to their mid-twenties. They breed from
May to August, gestate for about 11 months and give birth to summer
babies from June to July. Females give birth at an average rate
of about one calf every 2.5 years. The calf nurses for nearly
18 months and reaches sexual maturity at 5 to 8 years of age.
Among one pod of stranded dolphins, half of the mature females
had damaged mammary glands due to parasitic nematodes (worms).
This raises concerns about greatly reduced reproductivity.
1975 it was rare to find this dolphin anywhere near the coast,
sightings usually occurred on the continental slope, a sharp incline
about 120 miles off the coast of Massachusetts. Now white-sides
are frequently seen closer inshore.
1975 scientists and fisherman noticed an explosion of sand lance,
a small eel-like fish, in coastal regions like Stellwagen Bank
National Marine Sanctuary. Sand lance are a key source of food
for many species, including the white-sided dolphin, which mainly
feeds on short-finned squid and small fish. Many predators feed
on these small bait fish but researchers suggest that over-fishing
of mackerel and herring in the 1970s led to an increase in sand
lance which in turn led to a shift in habitat of white-sided dolphins.
Presently researchers estimate that about 27,200 white-sides inhabit
western North Atlantic waters. While not listed as endangered
or threatened, white-sided dolphins are not immune to dangers.
From 1991 to 1995 fisherman accidentally caught nearly one thousand
white-sided dolphins in New England waters. In 1995 scientist
calculated that in order to keep the population at sustainable
levels, human-caused moralities could not exceed 192 white-sided
dolphins. The annual average human-caused mortality for 1990 to
1995 is 181 white-sided dolphins a number dangerously close
to surpassing safe levels.
Fortunately, many of the efforts to protect harbor porpoises,
a dolphin-like marine mammal, may transfer to white-sided dolphins.
Groundfish sink gill nets present the greatest danger to harbor
porpoises and also account for 67% of the annual U.S. white-sided
dolphin mortality. By placing acoustic alarms or "pingers"
on the gill nets, harbor porpoises and white-sides may avoid the
net (Many scientist still question the efficacy of pingers, and
some completely dismiss its ability to reduce incidental catches).
Also certain areas are closed to fishing during high harbor porpoise
activity, which in some cases turn out to coincide with areas
of high white-side activity. Hopefully, both measures will reduce
the number of human-caused moralities. This article was written
by Michael Franklin, a student in the graduate program in Science
Journalism at Boston University and a 1997 science writing intern
at the Sanctuary.