Part 2, Sec. 2
The Sanctuary Setting

The most important factors to be considered in developing a management plan for the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary are its location; its physical characteristics, environmental conditions, and biological resources; its human uses; and the roles of the agencies with management responsibilities in the proposal area. These factors are summarized below to provide the background context necessary for understanding the management plan.

The Regional Context

Stellwagen Bank is located in the southwestern Gulf of Maine, which is formed by the bight of the northwest Atlantic coastline between Cape Cod, Massachusetts and Cape Sable, Nova Scotia (Figure 2). Roughly rectangular in shape, the Gulf of Maine measures about 200 miles (321.8 km) long by 120 miles (193.1 km) wide. A series a shallow banks forms its southern border and isolates it from deeper waters of the North Atlantic, except at the Northwest Channel, where Gulf depths attain 270 meters. The Gulf and its offshore banks constitute a geographic entity that has maintained its integrity for at least the last 13,000 years (Campbell, 1987).

Between Cape Ann and Cape Cod, in the southwest corner of the Gulf, is Massachusetts Bay, 75% enclosed by land. The Bay's most prominent submarine feature is Stellwagen Bank, which lies at the Bay's eastern edge and partially blocks its mouth. The Stellwagen Bank is a shallow, glacially-deposited, primarily sandy feature, curving in a southeast-to-northwest direction for almost 20 miles. Water depths over and around the Bank range from 65 feet to more than 300 feet. Seaward of the Bank, the seafloor slopes to depths of 600 feet or more.

1. Location and Boundary of Sanctuary

The Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary is located approximately 25 nautical miles east of Boston, Massachusetts, at the eastern edge of Massachusetts Bay. The site is also located approximately 3 miles north-northwest of Race Point (Provincetown), Massachusetts; and 3 miles southeast of Cape Ann (Gloucester), Massachusetts. The Bank feature itself measures 18.75 miles in length, and roughly 6.25 miles across at its widest point, at the southern end of the Bank. The Sanctuary boundary occurs entirely within Federal waters, i.e., beyond the three-mile limit of Commonwealth jurisdiction. The Sanctuary boundary surrounds the entirety of the Stellwagen Bank feature, as well as Tillies Bank (situated to the northeast), and southern portions of Jeffreys Ledge (situated to the north). The Sanctuary's southern border follows a line tangential to the seaward limit of Commonwealth jurisdiction adjacent to the Commonwealth-designated Cape Cod Bay Ocean Sanctuary; and is also tangential to waters designated by the Commonwealth as the Cape Cod Ocean Sanctuary. The northwest border of the Sanctuary coincides with the Commonwealth-designated North Shore Ocean Sanctuary.

The Sanctuary boundary is marked by the following coordinates, which indicate the northeast, southeast, southwest, west-northwest, and north-northwest points: 42_45'59.83"N x 70_13'01.77"W (NE); 42_05'35.51"N x 70_02'08.14"W (SE); 42_07'44.89"N x 70_28'15.44"W (SW); 42_32'53.52"N x 70_35'52.38"W (WNW); and 42_39'04.08"N x 70_30'11.29"(W) (NNW). The Sanctuary boundary encompasses approximately 638 square nautical miles, or 842 square miles (Figure 3).

2. Regional Access

Resources of the Stellwagen Bank area have traditionally supported an active commercial fishing industry, which reaches the Bank's fishing grounds primarily from Gloucester (approximately 12 miles northwest of the north end of the Bank), and Provincetown (approximately 6 miles south of the southern end of the Bank) (Figure 2). Additional fishing ports using the area include Boston, Chatham, New Bedford, Plymouth, Scituate, Hyannis, Fall River, Manomet, Falmouth, Wellfleet, Barnstable, Beverly, Salem, Ipswich, Rockport, Dartmouth, Westport, Fairhaven, Cuttyhunk, Duxbury, and Onset. Out-of-state fishing vessels also visit the Bank area from New Hampshire (primarily Portsmouth), Maine, and (less frequently) Connecticut. Currently, there are approximately 280 commercial fishing vessels fishing regularly in the Stellwagen Bank region. (Kellogg, 1990).

Recently, the number of both commercial and recreational vessels using the Bank for whalewatching activities has increased. These vessels operate primarily out of Provincetown and Gloucester. Overall, commercial whalewatch vessels using Stellwagen Bank seasonally number approximately 40. (MacKenzie, 1986).

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