Editor's Notes
Visionaries: An eye toward the future

New version of ESIP monitoring map available

Gulf Voices
A day on Great Bay: In search of the osprey

Science Insights
Dam removal

Profile: Dale Joachim of MIT’s Project Owl

Visionaries: Protecting the future of the Gulf of Maine

Book Review
Soaring with Fidel

Inside the Gulf of Maine Closure Area

Shipping lanes shifted to protect whales

Visionaries in the Gulf of Maine

Ocean Tracking Network to shed light on undersea life

Ambassador for his species: If a whale could speak

On the trail of invasive species

In the News
- Outside the Gulf
- Sappi Paper to remove dam on Presumpscot River
- MIT builds robotic fin for submersible vehicles
- New Brunswick to restore Petitcodiac River
- New Brunswick, Nova Scotia to jointly study Fundy tides

In the News
[printer firendly version]

Outside the Gulf

Water is the enemy of most glue, but scientists at Northwestern University in Illinois have married the sticking properties of the terrestrial gecko and the underwater mussel in a new synthetic adhesive called “geckel.” Geckos can scurry up vertical surfaces and move upside down thanks to a substance on their feet that acts much like a sticky note. But underwater, that ability to stick is reduced dramatically. Mussels are well known for their sticking ability underwater. Geckel works both in air and water. The scientists published their work in the July 19 issue of Nature. The researchers envision the substance being used to replace wound sutures and as a water-resistant adhesive for bandages. [more information]

Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are often hailed as a way to halt serious declines in marine species that have been overfished, but their effectiveness as a fisheries management tool remains unclear. Simon Thorrold, a fish ecologist from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, has come up with a novel technique for tagging fish that could test the success of MPAs. Thorrold and his colleagues plan to use harmless chemical tags to track the dispersal of the larvae of coral reef fish in the western Pacific Ocean. They will focus on grouper and snapper around the Great Barrier Reef and Papua New Guinea. Through a new technique known as TRAnsgenerational Isotope Labeling, or TRAIL, the researchers will introduce an artificial chemical tag into the tissues of mature female fish just before spawning. That chemical tag is passed to the female’s offspring and becomes a chemical signature within the ear bones of the next generation of fish. Researchers can then track the dispersal of the tagged larvae across reefs and large stretches of open ocean. This chemical tagging approach has been successfully tested in limited studies with clownfish and butterflyfish. For more information see: “Tracking Fish to Save Them” and “Do Marine Protected Areas Really Work?

Sappi Paper to remove dam on Presumpscot River

Sappi Fine Paper North America reached a preliminary settlement in July that will enhance fishery restoration efforts on the Presumpscot River, which runs 25 miles (40 kilometers) from Sebago Lake to its mouth at Casco Bay in southern Maine. The agreement is among Sappi and American Rivers Inc., the Friends of the Presumpscot River, the Maine Department of Marine Resources and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. A final settlement is expected by year end.

The preliminary agreement includes removing all components of the Cumberland Mills Dam, installing fish lifts at Saccarappa Dam and initiating a trap and truck program to jump-start the restoration of native sea-run species throughout the upper watershed. The actions are expected to trigger fish passage at Mallison Falls, Little Falls and Gambo dams.

The settlement stipulates that all work on the removal of the Cumberland Mills Dam and all renovations to the area will be completed and operational by May 2011. Additional work will include fish lifts at Saccarappa Dam, and at the upriver dams, as fish return to the river.

“Once a final settlement agreement is executed, we will have taken a huge step forward in restoring native fish species to our river. These species link our rivers and the ocean, and rebuild both ecosystems,” Dusti Faucher, president of Friends of the Presumpscot River, said in a statement.

Added Marvin E. Moriarty, Northeast regional director for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, “With the proposed settlement agreement, we can look forward to a future of fish restoration in this watershed, where we have not seen natural fish passage for more than 250 years.”

Currently Sappi provides minimum flows for fisheries at four Sappi dams: Eel Weir, Dundee, Gambo and Mallison Falls. These minimum flows are provided to improve the fisheries for trout and other species on the Presumpscot River. [more information] and [river facts]

MIT builds robotic fin for submersible vehicles

Inspired by the efficient swimming motion of the bluegill sunfish, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) are building a mechanical fin that could one day propel robotic submersibles or autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs). Those vehicles perform functions from mapping the ocean floor to surveying shipwrecks.

The MIT team hopes to create a more maneuverable, propeller-less underwater robot better suited to tasks such as sweeping mines and inspecting harbors by mimicking the action of the bluegill sunfish.

“If we could produce AUVs that can hover and turn and store energy and do all the things a fish does, they’ll be much better than the remotely operated vehicles we have now,” James Tangorra, an MIT postdoctoral associate working on the project, said in a statement.

The researchers chose to copy the bluegill sunfish because its distinctive swimming motion results in a constant forward thrust with no backward drag. In contrast, a human performing the breaststroke experiences drag during the recovery phase of the stroke.

Tangorra and his colleagues at MIT have broken down the fin movement of the bluegill sunfish into 19 components and analyzed which ones are critical to achieving the fish’s powerful forward thrust.

“We don’t want to replicate exactly what nature does,” said Tangorra. “We want to figure out what parts are important for propulsion and copy those.” So far, the team has built several prototypes that successfully mimic the sunfish fin. They reported the successful testing of their most recent fin, which is made of a cutting-edge thin, flexible material that conducts electricity, in the June issue of the Bioinspiration & Biomimetics journal. The fin can replicate two motions the researchers identified as critical to the propulsion of the sunfish fin: the forward sweep of the fins and the simultaneous cupping of the upper and lower edges of the fin.

When an electric current is run across the base of the experimental fin, it sweeps forward, just like a sunfish fin. By changing the direction of the electric current, the researchers can make the fin curl forward at the upper and lower edges. But it has been a challenge to make the fin sweep and curl at the same time. Placing Mylar polyester film strips along the fins to restrict their movement to the desired direction has proven successful. The team continues to seek alternatives. [more information]

New Brunswick to restore Petitcodiac River

The Petitcodiac River in southern New Brunswick will be restored to a major portion of what it was before a causeway, or a raised road above water, was installed across the river in 1968, province representatives said in August. Supply and Services Minister Roly MacIntyre said the province prefers to replace the Petitcodiac River Causeway with a 280-meter (919-foot) bridge costing about C$68 million (US$64 million). “It offers the most positive environmental benefits for the river,” he said in a statement. “The next step is to secure a federal/provincial funding agreement.”

The preferred option includes permanently opening the gates to allow fish passage and constructing the new bridge immediately downstream of the existing bridge. Once the new bridge is completed, the existing gates structure will be removed to allow for an eventual river opening of between 72 meters and 225 meters (246 feet and 738 feet) wide.

Subject to a partnership agreement, the work will be carried out in three phases: two years for planning and site preparation; two years for opening the gates and environmental monitoring of the river; and three to four years for construction of the new bridge, depending on funding support and seasonal weather conditions.

The Petitcodiac River restoration is environmentally sensitive and must be carried out according to the conditions set by the provincial Department of Environment. Before the gates can open, planning, remediation work and site preparation has to be done to prevent erosion along the river. Once the gates are open, the seasonal response must be monitored for two annual cycles as the river, fish populations and the surrounding habitat adjust to the change.

The Atlantic Salmon Federation (ASF) and the New Brunswick Salmon Council (NBSC) commended the move by the province. “While this was a difficult decision for the province, it is certainly the only environmentally correct decision,” said Patricia Edwards, ASF’s regional director for New Brunswick.

In a statement, the ASF and NBSC said that since its construction in 1968, the Petitcodiac causeway and its various fishways have contravened the Federal Fisheries Act by restricting or eliminating passage of all fish species. Countless efforts over the past four decades to improve the fishways at the causeway failed to provide adequate fish passage for any species, including the Atlantic salmon.

Prior to 1968, the two groups said the Petitcodiac River supported a run of 2,000 to 3,000 salmon annually, but after the causeway was completed the Petitcodiac run dwindled to mere hundreds of salmon. This decline preceded the precipitous crash of Inner Bay of Fundy (IBoF) salmon stocks. Those salmon are now listed as “endangered” under the Federal Species at Risk Act.

“While we are not suggesting that the causeway was the principal cause for the decline of IBoF salmon stocks as a whole, it definitely contributed greatly to the species decline in the Petitcodiac River,” said Gary Spencer, president of the NBSC. “As long as the causeway remains in place, salmon cannot ascend the river regardless of how strong the stocks are. The sooner the proposed bridge is in place and the causeway and its gate and fishway structures are dismantled, the sooner we can start restoring wild Atlantic salmon populations to their natural range in the Petitcodiac.” [more information] and [news]

New Brunswick, Nova Scotia to jointly study Fundy tides

New Brunswick and Nova Scotia are collaborating to study tidal energy in the Bay of Fundy. The two provinces will work to complete Strategic Environmental Assessments (SEA) of the Bay of Fundy before developing tidal energy policies.

The SEA will consist of two main parts: an Environmental and Socio-economic Impact Assessment Report and extensive stakeholder feedback and consultation.

The assessment will provide a better indication of where potential tidal energy sites could be located and any opportunities and constraints that may exist.

“This is an important step forward in developing future tidal projects which could benefit both of our provinces,” New Brunswick Energy Minister Jack Keir said in a statement.

Last year, both New Brunswick and Nova Scotia participated in a tidal energy study conducted by the Electric Power Research Institute, which provided analysis and identified approximate megawatt potential for each province. The new study will go into greater detail on site-specific issues. [more information]

For additional info about the Gulf of Maine including maps, photos, current research, the NGO database, and to download other educational
publications please visit The Gulf of Maine Council on the Marine Environment.
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