Focuses on Habitats and Biodiversity
Tidings -- Message from Dan Basta, NMS Director
Sanctuary Supports Program to Name Humpback Whales
Student Aquanauts Investigate Sanctuary
Executive Order Strengthens Ocean Protection
Focuses on Habitats and Biodiversity
biodiversity and preventing habitat destruction are two of the
most critical environmental management issues facing the National
Marine Sanctuaries today. Stellwagen Bank is no exception. Threats
to biodiversity and habitat range from overfishing and use of
destructive fishing techniques, other forms of seafloor disturbance,
pollution, and global climate change. Through research and education,
the sanctuaries offer opportunities to better understand marine
systems and the ways humans are affecting the living and cultural
resources of our ocean world.
Gerry E. Studds/Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary encompasses
one of the most productive marine environments along the northeastern
United States. Visiting the area are a myriad of species, some
of them in abundant amounts, such as Wilsons storm petrels,
Atlantic white-sided dolphins, sand lance and herring; others
in less profuse numbers, including the northern right whale, the
most critically endangered baleen whale (with a North Atlantic
population estimate of just under 300 individuals). Many of the
species fished in these waters are listed as over-harvested by
the National Marine Fisheries Service.
the sanctuary was designated in 1992 there were other issues of
importance to the public and marine resource users," notes
Stellwagens Acting Superintendent Ed Lindelof. "But
over several years of focused research, both here at the sanctuary
and at other marine study areas around the globe, we see that
these two topics, habitat protection and biodiversity, continue
to come to the forefront," he added. "In many cases,
these issues go hand-in-hand - habitat degradation often leads
to decreased biodiversity, and less biodiversity may produce a
less adaptive ecosystem."
series of public scoping sessions to identify important management
issues at Stellwagen Bank supported the global concerns. High
among the list of management priorities was habitat protection,
along with whale conservation, enforcement, additional research
needs, and greater public outreach. Many of the comments included
calls for greater protection of sanctuary resources by limiting
extractive uses of the sanctuary.
is a term that was coined to describe the variety of living organisms
and the ecosystems they inhabit. Biodiversity can occur at the
genetic level - a healthy population of animals would have high
genetic variability for reproductive vitality, ability to adapt
to change and to resist disease. The more commonly understood
aspect of biodiversity is species diversity, or the range of different
forms of life that have evolved over time (1.4 million species
are currently described; scientists differ on their estimates
of the total number of species ranging from 10-30+ million species).
The third form of diversity is community or ecological diversity
- or the variety of types of biological communities (collections
of species that interact). For the sanctuaries, all of these aspects
of biodiversity are important.
of the biodiversity questions facing local researchers include
the genetic diversity of whale populations in these waters, species
diversity in the face of overfishing, and community diversity
after trawling and dredging operations.
a recently released report from the Habitat Subcommittee to the
Northeast Fisheries Management Council and decisions at the Council
meetings indicated the need for research closure areas in the
marine waters of New England to provide scientific bases for fisheries
management decision-making. One of the recommendations raised
at Council-supported scoping meetings in March (organized to discuss
just this issue) was to make a short-term conservation closure
in the sanctuary a more permanent entity.
sanctuary closure area is part of a larger Gulf of Maine groundfish
closure that was instituted in 1996, with a designated five-year
limit (with the possibility of extension). The closure was made
to help restore cod stocks in the Gulf by limiting fishing pressure.
The intersection of the New England Fisheries Management Council
closure area with the sanctuary, allowed scientists to design
research experiments that looked at the effects of fishing gear
on different habitat types and recovery rates in similar habitats
in the protected zone.
type of research would not have been possible without the Gulf
closure. When the Stellwagen Bank Sanctuary was created in 1992
the area was known as a major whale feeding area, as well as an
historically important fishing ground. But unlike Naitonal Parks,
National Marine Sanctuaries do not prohibit all extractive uses.
Each sanctuarys regulations are unique, and each set of
regulations is subject to regular review and revision.
some research had taken place on the bank prior to designation,
very little was really known about the range of species and how
these animals interact among themselves and with their habitat.
Rather than set in place regulations that had no sound basis in
scientitfic fact, the first management plan allowed traditional
fishing practices as regulated under the New England Fisheries
Management Council and National Marine Fisheries Service. Consultation
with the sanctuary was to become part of the regulatory process.
that time researchers have been focusing attention on the resources
of the sanctuary and developing a better picture (both literally
and figuratively) about how nature operates at Stellwagen Bank.
Studies at sampling stations have used remotely-operated vehicles,
drop cameras, and submersibles to get time-series data. The opening
of the now closed area would end one of the few focused research
programs on gear impacts and habitat recovery
designation of the sanctuary in 1992 was the catalyst for research.
Congress believed the area to be nationally significant, and others
multi-year project by the U.S. Geological Survey using multi-bean
side-scan sonar produced a unique map with accuracy up to 5 meters
in the horizontal scale and 10 centimeters in vertical resolution.
The image appears as precise as any aerial photograph of the terrestrial
world - yet this one had to resolve the problem of 65-600 feet
of water between imaging equipment and seafloor. The resulting
map gives researchers an unprecedented look at the diverse seafloor
habitats. [See page 4 of this issue.]
on the return rate of the sonar signals, scientists at USGS were
able to tell if the bottom sediments were mud, sand, or rock.
This information now allows biologists from the National Undersea
Research Center for the North Atlantic and Great Lakes (at the
University of Connecticut) and other research institutions to
target specific areas for focused research on habitat use. One
such project was last summers Sustainable Seas Expedition
with Dr. Sylvia Earle to the deep boulder reefs in the northeast
section of the sanctuary.
and "biodiversity" are two topics around which much
interest has been generated lately on both the state and federal
levels. Preserving and protecting the variety of species and the
areas they inhabit are the goals of a myriad of organizations.
For NURC and the sanctuary, site characterization studies are
addressing some of the questions revolving around what species
can be found and where. In state government, the Massachusetts
Bays Program launched a new campaign - the Healthy Habitats Initiative
- to address two priority goals for the next three years: protecting
and enhancing coastal habitats and managing local resource use.
regional program is the first annual Biodiversity Days in Massachusetts.
The program, organized by the Massachusetts Executive Office of
Environmental Affairs (EOEA), seeks to enumerate all the species
in the Commonwealth. The Sanctuary is taking on the task of providing
a similar role for the marine environment with dedicated scuba
dives by the sanctuarys new dive team and coordination of
a number of researchers in the area. Biodiversity Days 2000 were
scheduled for June 9-11.
is the key to a healthy ecosystem. Each species, from the largest
to the smallest, has its place in the web of life," said
EOEA Secretary Bob Durand. "The first step to ensure biodiversity
is to find out just how many different species we have in our
EOEA and the sanctuary in understanding the range of species in
the marine waters are scientists from the National Undersea Research
Center-North Atlantic & Great Lakes (at the University of
Connecticut), the Marine Biological Laboratory, the Woods Hole
Oceanographic Institution, the University of Maine, and the National
Marine Fisheries Service-Northeast Science Center in Woods Hole.
Images and information gathered during Biodiversity Days and during
research cruises will be posted on the sanctuarys new web
-- Message from Dan Basta, NMS Director
national marine sanctuaries have been described as the "crown
jewels" of our nations marine environment. These nationally
significant coastal and ocean ecosystems provide extraordinary
economic, scientific, recreational, educational, and aesthetic
value to coastal communities and visitors from around the world.
Today the sanctuaries represent marine habitats where we may have
the best opportunity to demonstrate how to effectively protect
our marine and coastal resources.
nation is at a special time in its history. Future generations
will look back on this time to examine what we did to save our
oceans. Our efforts can change the legacy we leave to future generations.
We can either leave a revitalized marine environment or marine
ecosystems collapsed and beyond repair.
are at crossroads. We can act now as a community of coastal stewards
still holding the ability to reverse the effects of earlier generations
seen in an altered and depleted a marine environment.
National Marine Sanctuary Program is taking action to insure that
we preserve and secure for future generations these important
ecosystems. We are managing for results making resource
protection our highest priority and communicating this message
of our commitment to healthy oceans and coasts.
approach is to begin looking at our current practices, then working
upwards. This means we are making greater investments in education
and working directly with local communities and institutions to
forge partnerships that will achieve our common goal of saving
the ocean and its inhabitants.
mammals represent one of the most strongest visible connections
people to the sea. Like us, they are mammals and we share common
roots. Like us, marine mammals range far and wide in their world
and tie together large regions of the worlds oceans. At
the top of the food web, their vitality and abundance is a direct
measure of the health of our oceans and ultimately our own health.
Stellwagen National Marine Sanctuary holds particular importance
for many marine mammals and is hence an important area in their
life cycle as they travel to feed within sanctuary waters before
migrating to warmer water to give birth and nurse their young.
Viewing these creatures in their natural habitat in a sanctuary
is a powerful human experience-one we must share with future generations.
National Marine Sanctuaries, through its system of care and protection,
the promise of a healthy, thriving marine world now and in the
Faces at Headquarters
January, Dan Basta, the director of the National Ocean Service
Special Projects Office, was named as the acting director of the
Marine Sanctuary Program. He brings to the position 25 years of
experience in environmental quality and natural resources management
from around the world. Also
stepping up to the challenge of leading the sanctuaries in this
new millenium is CDR Craig McLean who has been named as the deputy
director of National Marine Sanctuary Program. CDR
McLean has 18 years of service in NOAA. Prior to arriving at the
Sanctuary Program, McLean was the Commanding Officer of the NOAA
Ship GUNTER, NOAAs largest fisheries research vessel.
to establish the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation was submitted
to Congress on April 4th by Secretary of Commerce William Daley.
The Foundation would raise private support for NOAAs 12
national marine sanctuaries, and work collaboratively with local
sanctuary foundations. Among
the functions of the Foundation would be: to serve as an official
nonprofit partner to Americas marine sanctuaries; to engage
people in rewarding volunteer activities along our beaches, on
the water, and under the waves; to promote exploration and research
partnerships to meet the challenges of ocean conservation; and
to support existing sanctuary "friends groups. "Marine
sanctuaries are part of our national commitment to protect the
oceans," said Secretary Daley. "A National Marine Sanctuary
Foundation chartered by Congress will allow corporate and individual
donors to support the exploration, understanding, and conservation
of these special places in the sea." "Marine
sanctuaries have historically enjoyed bipartisan support, and
we are pleased that the same support exists today for a National
Marine Sanctuary Foundation," said Dr. D. James Baker, under
secretary for oceans and atmosphere. Secretary Daley and under
secretary Baker would serve as advisors to a board of directors
comprised of citizens from across the country.
Follow Whales on Web
spring for the past five years the sanctuary has contributed to
an innovative internet education program that tracks the northward
migration of a dozen or so species in North America. After consulting
with researchers from as far south as the Dominican Republic,
as far north as Newfoundland, and many areas in-between, sanctuary
education coordinator Anne Smrcina submits biweekly entries on
the status of northern right whales and humpback whales for Journey
North, an Annenberg/CPB project. JN was the winner of the 1999
"Webby" Award (International Academy of Digital Arts
and Sciences) as the best education site on the web. Its address
and Fisheries Service Join Forces for Enforcement Program
Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary will be working with
the NOAA Office of Fisheries Enforcement to build a sanctuary
enforcement program that can more adequately address some of the
critical protection issues affecting sanctuary resources. A key
element in this program is the assignment of senior special agent
Kevin Sullivan to the Sanctuary to head up the project. By reallocating
personnel and teaming with other enforcement agencies, the sanctuary
and NOAA enforcement office will be able to provide a more visible
presence on Stellwagen Bank, be able to pursue suspected cases
involving marine mammal harassment, illegal fishing, and unpermitted
use of sanctuary resources, and serve as a model for the national
program. For more information on the enforcement program, contact
Budget Request Looks Promising
Bill Clintons 2001 budget request for the National Marine
Sanctuaries shows a $10 million increase over the present fiscal
year 2000 level which was itself a sizeable increase from the
previous year. Increased funding has allowed the sanctuary to
expand its research and education programs, hire new staff, and
initiate plans for public outreach facilities along the coast.
A pilot project for sanctuary enforcement with the NOAA Office
of Enforcement and development of a volunteer program will also
be possible by the funding increase. Among the opportunities for
next year under increased funding levels will be additional support
for research for site characterization and dedicated funding for
the completion of the management plan review now underway.
Predicts Busy Hurricane Year
National Weather Service predicts that east coast and Gulf of
Mexico residents in the United States will experience an above-average
year for hurricanes in 2000. The scientists estimate that 11 or
more tropical storms will form, with 7 or more becoming hurricanes.
Of these hurricanes, at least 3-4 may be categorized as major.
Depending on the track, the storms may affect local waters and
the Stellwagen sanctuary; other National Marine Sanctuaries off
Florida, Georgia and North Carolina may also be impacted. Tropical
storms, with rotary circulation and wind speeds above 39 miles
per hour, are assigned names by the Tropical Prediction Center
in Florida. Atlantic storm names for 2000 are: Alberto, Beryl,
Chris, Debby, Ernesto, Florence, Gordon, Helene, Isaac, Joyce,
Keith, Leslie, Michael, Nadine, Oscar, Patty, Rafael, Sandy, Tony,
Valerie, and William. The use of easily remembered names greatly
reduces confusion when two or more tropical storms occur at the
same time. The short, distinctive given names are quicker to say
and less subject to error than the older more cumbersome latitude-longitude
identification methods. The letters Q, U, X, Y, and Z are not
included because of the scarcity of names beginning with those
letters. The Center retires a name after a major land-falling
storm with major economic impact. The name lists have an international
flavor because hurricanes affect other nations and are tracked
by the public and weather services of many countries. Names for
the list are selected from library sources and agreed upon at
international meetings of the World Meteorological Organization.
of the Gulf Announced
year 2000 has been designated as the "Year of the Gulf of
Maine" through a joint proclamation by the Governors and
Premiers of the states and Canadian provinces that border that
water body. This special recognition of the Gulf highlights its
significance to the peoples of Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine,
New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. The proclamation recognizes ten
years of successful cross-border collaboration by the Gulf of
Maine Council (made up of the five state and provincial governments
and their federal partners), and encourages continued protection
and wise management of the Gulf ecosystem. The proclamation can
be viewed at the Councils web site at http://www.gulfofmaine.org/2000proclamation.htm.
System Focuses on Whale Protection
with ships are a major source of injury and death of the critically
endangered northern right whale (less than 300 survive in the
North Atlantic). In an effort to reduce the number of ship strikes,
NOAA and the U.S. Coast Guard have developed and implemented Mandatory
Ship Reporting Systems. The systems were endorsed by the International
Maritime Organization - a specialized organization of the United
systems became operational in July 1999. When ships greater than
300 gross tons enter two key right whale habitats - one off the
northeast U.S. and one off the southeast U.S. - they are required
to report to a shore-based station. In return, ships receive a
message (usually via satellite to the ships bridge computer)
about right whales, their vulnerability to ship strikes, precautionary
measures the ship can take to avoid hitting a whale, and locations
of recent sightings. The
northern reporting zone covers the waters of Cape Cod Bay, Massachusetts
Bay, and the Great South Channel, and includes the entire Stellwagen
Bank Sanctuary. The system is in effect year-round for this zone.
For the southern zone, which is the right whales calving
ground, the reporting system operates from Nov. 15 through April
about the location of right whales is also being provided to mariners
through various broadcast media, including the U.S. Coast Guards
Broadcasts to Mariners, satellite-linked marine safety broadcasts,
and NOAA Weather Radio. Under the Marine Mammal Protection Act,
it is illegal to intentionally approach a right whale closer than
500 yards without a permit (the regulation does not apply to cargo
and large passenger vessels in the shipping lanes and fishing
vessels in the act of towing or retrieving gear).
Celebrates 30 Years
year 2000 marks the 30th anniversary of the National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), an agency that conducts research
and gathers data about the global oceans, atmosphere, space, and
sun, and applies this knowledge to science and services that touch
the lives of all Americans. NOAA includes the National Weather
Service (the primary source of weather data, forecasts and warnings
for the U.S.), the National Ocean Service (which develops the
national foundation for coastal and ocean science, management,
response and restoration, geodesy, and navigation, and includes
administration of the National Marine Sanctuaries), the Office
of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research, the National Environmental
Satellite, Data, and Information Service, the National Marine
Fisheries Service, and the Office of Marine and Aviation Operations
(which includes the NOAA Corps, a part of the nations uniformed
services). For more information on NOAA, check out its web site
Photo Exhibits Grow
the past four year the Stellwagen Bank Sanctuary has offered a
traveling photographic exhibit to museums and other institutions.
This year two versions of the show have been installed; one at
the Nantucket Whaling Museum and the other at the Salem National
Historic Site Visitor Center (spring and fall). A smaller version
of the show was displayed at the Boston Sea Rovers meeting in
March and will be used at Fish Expo in Providence in October.
contributors to the show include Dann Blackwood and Page Valentine
of the USGS, Greg Skomal of Mass. Division of Marine Fisheries
and Roger Allen. Other contributors include: Andrew Martinez,
Bob Michelson, Kevin McCarthy, Dave and Sue Millhouser, Jonathan
Bird, Peter Auster and Norman Despres. Anyone wishing to add their
images to the traveling exhibition or to the sanctuarys
web page image gallery should contact Anne Smrcina at the sanctuary
(firstname.lastname@example.org or 781-545-8026). These donations of images
are greatly appreciated and used exclusively for sanctuary education
Supports Program to Name Humpback Whales
do the humpback whales of the sanctuary get their recognizable
names? Its all part of a regional collaborative effort that
brings together scientists and naturalists who work with these
whales on a day-to-day basis. This year, the sanctuary began what
should become an annual program of support for the whale naming
in the mid-1970s as an informal method of distinguishing commonly
seen whales, whale naming has grown into a formal procedure involving
all of the major whale research groups from the northeast. This
year some 30 individuals representing organizations from Maine
to Connecticut came to the March 25th proceedings. The workshop
was organized by the Cetacean Research Unit (CRU) of Gloucester
(now known as the Whale Center of New England) and the Center
for Coastal Studies (CCS) in Provincetown. The Center is the keeper
of the master database of humpbacks in the Gulf of Maine, including
the 59 new whales (1999s new calves, and juveniles and adults
not previously seen), 55 were named. The only whales left unnamed
were those whose identifying photographs were not clear enough
to provide distinctive distinguishing marks.
specific rules apply - the names must be based on the pattern
of black and white marks on the tail flukes, the shape of the
trailing edge of the flukes or the dorsal fin; the names cannot
be gender specific (since researchers do not often know the sex
of the newly recognized animals); the names should not be that
of specific persons (except in exceptional cases); the names should
be one word; and they should be clearly understandable (especially
over faulty sound systems on noisy boats).
common names to whales makes identification simpler in the field.
Humpbacks display their dorsal fins and tails when they dive.
Researchers can often spot distinctive marks in the field; for
other whales, photographs can be compared to the master database
for verification of identification.
flukes (the flared right and left portions of the tail) show individually
identifiable differences from whale to whale - a whale "fingerprinting"
system. The flukes range from pure white to pure black with a
range of patterns and marks in between. Natural marks appear as
a calf and stabilize after a year. Scars can happen at any time
- white scars on black backgrounds and black scars on white backgrounds.
Scars can be the result of orca and/or shark attacks (especially
on the young), fishing gear entanglements, barnacles and other
parasites, ship strikes, and other at-sea interactions.
this year include "Dice" so-called because of two distinctive
spots on its right fluke; "Tracer" named for a white
streak on its right fluke; and "Peeler" a calf with
a black mark on its left fluke that looks just like a vegetable
of the whales named at the workshop were spotted during the 1999
whalewatching season in the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary.
Sanctuary support for the workshop covered digitizing of images,
research and confirmation of "new whale" status, and
organization of the workshop.
"Sanctuary support of this effort is important both in
making this group of endangered animals more familiar to the general
whalewatching public as well as allowing researchers to better
understand the composition of the resident population," said
Anne Smrcina, the sanctuarys education coordinator. "Part
of the sanctuarys mission to to preserve and protect its
living marine resources while promoting marine research and education
- this is one step towards those goals," she added.
of the newly named whales will be posted on the sanctuarys
home page at http://www.sbnms,nos.noaa.gov along with information
about why each whale received its name. The sanctuary will update
this database each year. Host site for the naming workshop was
the New England Aquarium in Boston.
Aquanauts Investigate Sanctuary
stewardship often starts in the classroom, and what better classroom
than the sea itself? This summer, the Stellwagen Bank National
Marine Sanctuary will host a crew of budding oceanic scientists
when the Aquanaut Program launches their new science education
mission in June.
Aquanaut Program, an educational initiative of the National Undersea
Research Center, North Atlantic and Great Lakes (NURC NA&GL)
at the University of Connecticut, has offered middle and high
school teachers and their students the opportunity to learn about
the marine environment while performing in-situ research at sea
summer of 2000 will see the start of a new phase in the program
as Aquanaut students will contribute to the scientific study of
the sanctuary by developing site characterizations of various
monitoring sites on and near Stellwagen Bank.
want to collaborate with the Sanctuary staff by doing research
that will be totally useful for them," said Peter Scheifele,
Director of the Aquanaut Program. "At the same time, our
student can get real hands-on experience. Its a mutually
staff gladly welcome the additional research hands. "Terrestrial
environmenta have had the luxury of being easily accessible to
student researchers. But the marine world, other than the thin
coastal margin, has been relatively difficult for student-based
research. The Aquanaut program not only gets students to explore
this fascinating, little known world, but provides extremely useful
information to those of us tasked with preserving and protecting
this national treasure," said Anne Smrcina, the sanctuarys
students will conduct the site characterization experiments during
six days of daily excursions in the Stellwagen Bank National Marine
Sanctuary using Gloucester as their port of embarkation from August
4 through August 11. Their teachers will be introduced to the
research protocols on a separate four-day instructional voyage
aboard the NOAA Ship FERREL in late Jun. These cruises are a part
of the Aquanaut programs larger mission to keep classrooms
informed about advances in marine science research.
the teachers using the opportunity of actual field research is
a big part of the process," said Scheifele. "They often
use the material they learn at sea to teach their classes on into
the next year." With supervision from marine scientists,
the Aquanaut team will investigate four specific properties of
the marine environment: acoustical; chemical; microbial; and species/habitat
a apart of their acoustical studies, the student-researchers will
use a suite of sonar techniques such an active/passive sonar system
that includes an underwater microphone to gauge acoustical properties
along the sea floor and to measure ambient noise. This work will
supplement ongoing acoustic studies by Peter Scheifele on the
potential effects of man-made noise on marine mammals.
want to know what kind of acoustic the animals of the bank are
living in and whether that acoustic environment is more like a
noisy factory, or more like a comfortable living room," said
each site, the students will measure water temperature, salinity,
and dissolved oxygen of the sea water at various depths to assess
the chemical properties of the areas. Theyll also test water
samples for heavy metal pollutants and coliform bacteria.
dragging a sieve-like screen called a plankton tow through the
water, the students can get a look at some of the microbial life
in the sanctuarys waters. A remotely-operated-vehicle (ROV)
will take video shots of the bottom habitats, allowing students
to assess the biodiversity of the ocean floor.
collecting their data, students will return to the University
of Connecticut, Storrs campus to analyze their results. Each school
group will consider one specific area of the research. All the
groups will compile their results into one publishable site characterization
paper. At this time of the writing of this article, NURC had not
yet finalized the list of study sites in the sanctuary, but, says
Scheifele, the areas will be chosen to represent the variety of
different bottom habitats in the Stellwagen sanctuary. Site selections
will be made based on data provided by Page Valentine at the U.S.
Geological Survey, who is completing a detailed topographic survey
of the area.
Babb, Director of the National Undersea Research Center, Dom Tedeschi,
the Aquanaut Programs research coordinator , Joe Crivello
of the University of Connecticut, Fred Thruberg and George Senefelder
of the National Marine Fisheries Service will serve as supervising
scientists at sea and the principle investigators of the study.
By working closely with these professional oceanic researchers,
the students will get a realistic look into the life of a research
scientist. "The students get to work as technicians, and,
at the same time, they can job shadow the scientists," said
years Aquanaut schools includes: Sage Park Middle School
from Windsor, Conn., Norfolk County Agricultural High School from
Walpole, Mass.,Martin Kellogg Middle School from Newington, Conn.,
Norwich Technical School from Norwich, Conn., Woodstock Academy
from Woodstock, Conn., and Dearborn High School from Dearborn,
Mich. A total of forty students and their teachers will be participating.
The American School for the Deaf from Hartford, Conn. will be
participating in NURCs Classroon of the Sea program later
in the summer, investigating cetacean acoustics in the sanctuary.
Recovery Study Continues
from the National Undersea Research Center-North Atlantic and
Great Lakes (at the University of Connecticut) will be conducting
field studies in the sanctuary as part of a continuing project
that focuses on habitat recovery in the Western Gulf of Maine
Closed Area. Principal Investigators are James Lindholm, a postdoctoral
fellow at NURC (who also serves as the sanctuarys research
coordinator) and Peter Auster, Science Director at NURC (and a
science advisor to the sanctuary). During a June research cruise,
researchers will be visiting stations inside and outside the closed
area to contrast habitat characteristics in relation to disturbance
by fishing gear. Observations will be made with both still and
video gear employed on remotely-operated-vehicles. These studies
are important in developing management strategies to address some
of the critical questions being raised today in fisheries management.
Patterns in Species Diversity
research cruises, one in June and one in August, will concentrate
on species diversity in the Stellwagen Bank area. The first cruise,
with Susanna Fuller of Dalhousie University as Principal Investigator,
will use a naturalist dredge to collect sponges and related invertebrate
taxa to determine spatial distribution of species within the sanctuary.
The second leg will utilize a remotely-operated-vehicle to obtain
fine scale video records to empirically determine species-area
relationships. The suction sampler on the ROV will be used to
obtain voucher specimens and small scale quantitative samples
of invertebrate species, according to Principal Investigator Peter
Auster of NURC.
Stellwagen Bank Sanctuary has joined with the National Marine
Fisheries Service to
fund the Gulf of Maine Humpback Whale Program of the Center for
Coastal Studies in Provincetown. The sanctuary portion of the
program will be dedicated to identifying Stellwagen Bank whales
and to better understand seasonal and off-season habitat use in
the area. The full study encompasses all of the Gulf of Maine
and looks at population size, individual habitat preferences,
migratory destinations, genetic underpinnings of distribution
and behavior. All of these issues are important in upcoming national
and international assessments of this species. During the sanctuary-dedicated
cruises (at least
one per month), log entries will be written for public dissemination
on the sanctuarys
Named NOAA Environmental Hero
Auster, science director for the National Undersea Research Center
at the University of Connecticut and science advisor to the Stellwagen
Bank National Marine Sanctuary, has been awarded an Environmental
Hero Award from NOAA. In making the award, NOAA officials citedAusters
leadership in the process to develop a comprehensive research
and monitoring plan for the sanctuary, as well as his efforts
to engage the academic community to focus research there. He played
a significant role in helping to build a partnership with the
US Geological Survey for a high resolution mapping project (see
page 4), an unparalleled information resource anywhere in the
US EEZ. Subsequently, he has made good use of that data set in
identifying fish assemblage/habitat relationships in the Sanctuary.
His habitat use characterization model was one of the first in
the published literature to effectively integrate both geology
and biogenic structure to predict fish assemblages in the habitats
of the sanctuary. Over the past two years, Auster has also graciously
provided expertise in underwater technology to help resolve some
of the operational questions encountered in the start-up of the
joint NOAA/ National Geographic Society Sustainable Seas Expedition
program. Among his other honors is a 1999 Pew Fellowship, a three-year
grant, that recognizes his accomplishments in environmental conservation
and provides support for continued research.
Order Strengthens Ocean Protection
May 26th, President Clinton issued an Executive Order that directs
federal agencies to strengthen protection of ocean and coastal
resources. One of the centerpieces of this program is the creation
of a comprehensive network of marine protected areas (MPAs), along
with the establishment of a Marine Protected Area Center within
NOAA. The program strives to protect areas representative of the
diverse marine ecosystems within U.S. waters.
are now more than 1,000 areas granted some level of special protection
by the federal or state governments. Federal marine protected
areas include the 12 National Marine Sanctuaries, of which Stellwagen
Bank serves as a representative site in the Gulf of Maine. Other
federally protected marine areas include some National Parks and
Wildlife Refuges, the National Estuarine Research Reserves, and
fisheries closure areas.
designations help to protect significant natural and cultural
resources, such as coral reefs and historic shipwrecks like the
USS MONITOR. In addition, they help promote sustainable use of
fisheries and other marine resources, provide educational and
recreational opportunities, and preserve unique areas for scientific
study. Despite these efforts to protect nationally significant
marine resources, the designated areas only cover about 1 percent
of the ocean within U.S. jurisdiction, and only about 10 percent
of that protected area is afforded the highest level of protection,
where fishing and other extractive activities are precluded
signing the Executive Order, President Clinton expressed his belief
that an expanded and strengthened network of MPAs is essential
to the conservation of Americas natural and cultural marine
heritage, and for the ecologically and economically sustainable
use of U.S. marine waters for future generations. The Executive
Order directs federal agencies to use their existing authorities
to: strengthen the management, protection and conservation of
existing MPAs and establish new or expanded MPAs; develop a scientifically
based, comprehensive national system of MPAs representing diverse
U.S. marine ecosystems, and the nations natural or cultural
resources; and avoid causing harm to MPAs through federally conducted,
approved or funded activities.
developing the national system of MPAs, NOAA, in cooperation with
the Department of the Interior, will seek the expert advice and
recommendations of non-federal scientists, resource managers,
and other interested persons and organizations through a Marine
Protected Area Federal Advisory Committee to be created by the
Department of Commerce. Also, the agencies are to consult with
states, commonwealths, territories, Regional Fishery Management
Councils and other entities, as appropriate, to promote coordination
of federal, state, territorial and tribal actions to establish
and manage MPAs.
addition, the order directs the Environmental Protection Agency
to reduce pollution of beaches, coasts, and ocean waters by developing
Clean Water Act regulations that strengthen water quality protections
for coastal and ocean waters. These new standards will guide the
agency when it reviews proposals for onshore and offshore activities
that result in discharges to ocean or coastal waters. In developing
these regulations, EPA may set higher levels of protection in
especially valued or vulnerable areas.