Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary: Site Characterization for Management Plan Review

Craig MacDonald
Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Delivered at 2003 Boston Harbor Islands Science Symposium.

The Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary stretches between Cape Ann and Cape Cod at the mouth of Massachusetts Bay. Virtually the size of the state of Rhode Island, the Sanctuary was established in 1992 because of its remarkable biological, geological, oceanographic and cultural features. The Sanctuary is mandated by Congress to protect this special place, while allowing people to use and enjoy it in a sustainable way compatible with resource protection. Management plan review, required by law, is conducted to ensure that the Sanctuary properly conserves and protects its nationally significant living and cultural resources. To better inform this process, effort is being directed at identifying and analyzing data bases and conducting research that characterize the physical and biological properties and uses of the Sanctuary. This presentation provides an overview of the evaluation of that information and the types of research being done. Research topics include the spatial and temporal distribution of whales and seabirds, habitat-related residency patterns of cod fish, inventory and assessment of shipwrecks of historical importance, and distribution of fishing effort by gear type, for example. Much of the work derives from the use of remote technologies and oceanographic vessels to gather data because of the considerable water depth of the Sanctuary and its location far offshore. GIS (geographic information systems) applications are used extensively to portray research results. Because of the general applicability of much of the information gathered, the Sanctuary is viewed as a model for the Gulf of Maine.

Last updated: February 26, 2015

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