Apparently, the map of the sea floor off the coast of Maine, used for many years to assess the impact of fishing in the area, only used 190 sample points taken from an area of more than 25,000 square miles.
A new study of the sea floor on Georges Bank may compel fishery managers to dramatically re-evaluate the measures currently employed to regulate the fishing industry there. A submerged plateau warmed by the Gulf Stream, Georges Bank lies about 60 miles off Cape Cod. Its shallow waters, swept by nutrient-rich currents, provide rich feeding grounds for a wide variety of marine life, making it one of the world’s most productive marine ecosystems. Fishermen have worked these grounds for 400 years, resulting today in the closure of large areas, some of them permanently, to protect fish habitat and stocks. However, the map used to assess the impact of fishing on Georges Bank was compiled using just 190 sample points taken from the entire expanse of the bank, an area totaling more than 25,000 square miles.
_”On average, that’s 125 kilometers (72 miles) between points, and some samples date back as far as the time when guys were throwing lead weights over the side,” said Bradley P. Harris, a research associate with UMass Dartmouth’s School of Marine Science and Technology who carried out the new study.
_”That did not provide an accurate picture of what’s on the sea floor,” he said. The exhaustive new study was conducted from the decks of New Bedford scallop vessels between 1996 and 2009. It was funded largely by the fishermen themselves, who contributed the boats, food, fuel and expertise. The researchers supplied live underwater video technology using the same method that furnished the first comprehensive assessment of the sea scallop population. Three cameras, mounted on a pyramid frame, were lowered to the seabed, and the observations were recorded at more than 61,000 locations.
“This is superb work that’s going to change the face of fishery management,” said Dave Preble, chairman of New England Fishery Management Council’s habitat committee. “I can’t emphasize enough how important it is. This work will be the foundation of our ecosystem management plan, and it’s finally going to get us out of this ridiculous single-species management that always seems to fail,” he said._