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In support of NOAA’s Ocean Ecosystem Research within a portion of Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary
Ocean River Institute, Inc Ocean River Institute, Inc
Cambridge, MA
Saturday, January 14, 2012

Humpback Whales feeding on forage fish on Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary
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contact: John Williamson 207 939-7055

contact: Rob Moir 617 661-6647

contact: Les Kaufman 617 407-3685

In support of NOAA's Ocean Ecosystem Research within a portion of Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary

Today, four Massachusetts-based community organizations submitted a letter to John Bryson, Secretary of Commerce, requesting that NOAA (National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration) expedite important measures designed to further science-based management of Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary and fisheries in New England. "Stellwagen Bank Sanctuary, an 842-square mile area spanning the approach to Massachusetts Bay, is home to over five hundred species of fish, sea birds, whales and diverse marine life," said Rob Moir, PhD, of the Ocean River Institute. "This ocean ecosystem research is an opportunity for fishermen and scientists, working together, to ensure plentiful seafood and a healthy marine ecosystem for the future."

In September 2011, the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries released a 39-page proposal detailing a network of areas within the Sanctuary for scientific research on the effects of fishing on marine communities and habitats. The proposal, which is called the Sanctuary Ecological Research Area (SERA), must be integrated with management plans developed by National Marine Fisheries Service and the New England Fishery Management Council.

"The National Marine Sanctuary is the ocean equivalent of a United States' National Park," said John Williamson, president of Stellwagen Alive and a member of the Sanctuary Advisory Council. "The SERA proposal is the culmination of a lengthy public process to promote science-based decision making in Sanctuary management. Stellwagen Bank is at the heart of a complex food-web important to New England fisheries and to species that migrate the North Atlantic. This is one of the truly unique ocean areas on the planet, and we need better science to understand how to treat it wisely."

Hundreds of commercial fishing vessels and thousands of recreational fishermen visit the Sanctuary annually. SERA designers have worked hard to minimize its size and still incorporate a full representation of sensitive habitats.

"My hope is that the SERA will be a place where fishermen and scientists can be partners in innovation," commented Dr. Les Kaufman of Boston University Marine Program, and a senior scientist with Conservation International.

Kaufman went on to explain, "We know that fishing has dramatically shaped the ecology of the Sanctuary. Well-designed research can help us harmonize biodiversity conservation with robust fishing opportunities. In fact, better management of the Sanctuary could result in better quality fishing experiences for recreational and commercial fishermen alike."

If enacted by NOAA, the SERA proposal would close relatively small portions of the Sanctuary to various types of fishing activity. The areas would serve as reference sites for controlled experiments on fishing methods. Each area is designed to include four critical bottom habitat types – gravel, sand, mud and boulder. More than 60% of the Sanctuary would remain outside the SERA and would be unaffected.

"After all the sacrifices made by fishermen for sustainable fishing, this is not a good time to close a portion of the Sanctuary to fishing" noted Rob Moir. "However our sister National Marine Sanctuary in the Florida Keys found after closing an area, adjacent waters soon had more fish and fishermen there are now glad about that closing."

The text of the letter to Commerce Secretary Bryson can be found at:


In addition to our letter, on December 22, 2011, 61 marine scientists addressed a letter to Senator Kerry explaining the scientific importance of the SERA proposal. That letter was circulated to New England Congressional offices and can be found at:


The SERA proposal can be found at: http://stellwagen.noaa.gov/library/pdfs/sbnms_sera_proposal.pdf

For further information please contact:

Les Kaufman,Ph.D., Boston University, mobile 617 407 3685 or email lesk@bu.edu

Rob Moir,Ph.D., Ocean River Institute, by phone 617 661-6647 or email rob@oceanriver.org

John Williamson, Stellwagen Alive, mobile 207 939-7055 or email john@stellwagenalive.org

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Name: Rob Moir
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Group: Ocean River Institute
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