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Top predators and biodiversity historically pressured in Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary
Date:8/2/2010

The numbers of top-level predators in Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, such as halibut and swordfish, have decreased significantly over what existed 100 years ago, according to a new NOAA report released today by the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries.

The National Marine Sanctuaries Conservation Series report, "Stellwagen Bank Marine Historical Ecology Final Report," describes fish populations in the sanctuary that are resilient, but have suffered declines in numbers and species diversity over time.

The report, produced by the Gulf of Maine Cod Project at the University of New Hampshire, presents results of a three-year survey and analysis of historical documents and manuscripts relevant to the marine historical ecology of the sanctuary. The authors, Stefan Claesson and Andrew Rosenberg, former director of NOAA Fisheries Northeast Regional Office, said the report's findings challenge currently established baselines "and should influence the direction of management actions needed to improve overall ecosystem integrity."

Key findings from the research include:

  • Halibut, swordfish and other top predators were overfished to near commercial extinction in the late 19th and 20th centuries;
  • Declines in diversity of bottom-dwelling species in the western Gulf of Maine, including the sanctuary, from 1900 to 2000;
  • Maximum annual catch levels of important commercial species declined by nearly 50 percent over a 100 year period; and
  • Proportional catch ratios of haddock and cod in the sanctuary have reversed in the last 100 years from 3:1 to 1:7, signaling a resurgence of cod but a precipitous decline of haddock.

"These findings present a serious wake-up call to marine resource managers, the fishing community and environmentalists," said Craig MacDonald, superintendent, Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary. "Biodiversity conservation is one of the key management priorities for the
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Contact: Anne Smrcina
anne.smrcina@noaa.gov
781-545-8026 x204
NOAA Headquarters
Source:Eurekalert

Page: 1 2

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