Search What's New Site Map Home Links The Paper Let's Talk Our Library About Us

Gulf of Maine Times

Vol. 5, No. 1


Gulf Log
Gulf Voices
About the GoM Times

Back Issues

Winter 2000
Summer 2000
Spring 2000  
Winter 1999

Fall 1999
Summer 1999
Spring 1999
Winter 1998
Fall 1998
Summer 1998
Spring 1998
Winter 1997
Fall 1997
Summer 1997
Spring 1997


Gulf Log

Aquaculture and the environment

Participants from the Gulf of Maine region and beyond explored ways to develop environmentally and economically sustainable aquaculture at a recent conference called Marine Aquaculture and the Environment: A Meeting for Stakeholders in the Northeast at the University of Massachusetts-Boston. 

Aquaculturists in the region, who are growing seaweed to salmon, are grappling with questions involving how to minimize the impact of aquaculture on the marine environment, wild fish, birds and other marine animals. Rebecca Goldburg of the Environmental Defense Fund of New York urged attendees to take complaints about aquaculture impacts seriously and said it would be best if this young industry "deliberately avoids or minimizes impacts from the outset."

Speakers addressed issues including pollution caused by waste discharges from fish farms, the introduction of non-indigenous fish species and disease transmission from farm fish to wild fish. Attention focused on the problems posed by the interbreeding of escaped farm fish and wild fish, a topic of particular significance for endangered Atlantic salmon in the Gulf of Maine.

The St. Croix River area near the Maine-New Brunswick border boasts the "world's most intensively farmed Atlantic salmon industry," Dr. Fred G. Whoriskey of the Atlantic Salmon Federation said. Eight Maine rivers also support the only wild Atlantic salmon stocks left in the U.S., but genetically different farm fish that have escaped their cages now outnumber the wild fish. In addition to competing with wild salmon for food, farm escapees that may not carry the genetic traits for optimal survival in the wild can weaken the gene pool of the wild fish.

Approximately 30 to 50 percent of farm salmon used in the region are North American/European hybrids, according to Ed Baum, fisheries scientist for Atlantic Salmon Unlimited.

Densely populated fish farms can also provide breeding grounds for disease that can spread to wild fish. Norway, for example, the world's largest producer of Atlantic salmon, has seen the rapid spread of disease from farm salmon to wild salmon, according to Kjetil Hindar of the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research. In 1985, smolts imported from Scotland brought a bacterial disease, furunculosis, to several Norwegian fish farms. By 1992, salmon at 550 fish farms and in 74 rivers were infected, according to Hindar's research.

North American salmon have not been insulated from the spread of disease. Infectious salmon anemia, a virus transmitted by salmon lice that was first detected in 1984 among fish in Norway, appeared in Canadian salmon farms in 1996 and was detected in both Canada's farm and wild salmon in 1999, Whoriskey said. 
Although Atlantic salmon is the predominant species farmed worldwide from Norway to Chili, other finfish are under cultivation in the Gulf of Maine as well. Faced with the uncertainty of how less utilized species will impact the environment when cultivated, aquaculturalists are debating how best to approach raising these fish. An alternative to raising fish in offshore pens is to raise them in a contained tank system on land so that they do not interact with wild fish. Another method is to raise fish in a hatchery and release them into the ocean.

According to Chris Duffy, who raises flounder at Great Bay Aquafarms in New Hampshire, the question that needs to be asked in the latter case is, "What is the impact of these fish on the wild?" Even so, he urged his fellow aquaculturists to "avoid the precautionary approach" when it comes to developing this relatively new industry and stressed the importance of conducting "responsible" research and experimentation. "If we don't do some development, nothing will get done," he said.

Maureen Kelly, Gulf of Maine Times intern

Back to the top...

Myrtle doesn't like what she hears

Myrtle, the New England Aquarium's resident green sea turtle, glides up through the water of the Giant Ocean Tank with a grace that belies her 550-pound bulk. As aquarium staffers begin lowering sound equipment into the water, she chomps on a few leaves of lettuce that have been tossed to her. Then she is ready for her morning routine. Over the next half hour, Kathy Streeter, the Aquarium's curator of marine mammals, observes how Myrtle responds to low frequency sounds broadcast from underwater speakers to determine her hearing range.

All sea turtle species found off the U.S. coast are threatened or endangered.

This study, which is funded by the Office of Naval Research, could help prevent one of the major causes of turtle mortality, drowning from entanglements in fishing gear. Knowing turtles' threshold for noise means that sound could be used to prevent these reptiles from approaching dangerous nets. Already, nets equipped with "pingers" that emit acoustic signals have proven to be effective deterrents to certain marine mammals.

During the testing session, Myrtle demonstrates that acoustic deterrents may work for turtles as well. Streeter has trained Myrtle to bite an underwater speaker when she hears a sound, after which she is rewarded with a squid or fish snack. On this particular day, Myrtle responds consistently, but when the decibel level is annoyingly high, she shies away from the testing area, neglecting to bite the speaker. 

Although it is too early to say if sound will be as effective on free ranging turtles, Streeter says, "We are hoping that the information provided by this baseline study of [Myrtle's] hearing capabilities can be used to help develop an acoustic deterrent."

Maureen Kelly, Gulf of Maine Times intern

Back to the top...

Council awards over $121,000 in grants

The Gulf of Maine Council on the Marine Environment last December awarded more than $121,000 to 15 organizations in Canada and the U.S. for 2001 projects. The Implementation Grants Program helps finance local initiatives in Maine, Massachusetts, New Brunswick, New Hampshire and Nova Scotia. The projects support the Council's priority goals of restoring shellfish habitat, promoting restoration of groundfish resources, addressing ecosystem and public health effects of toxins in the marine food chain, reducing marine debris, and protecting and restoring regionally significant coastal habitats.

The grant recipients have pledged more than $426,000 in matching support, bringing the total value of the funded projects to over $531,000. Council Chairman Evan Richert, also director of the Maine State Planning Office noted, "The commitment and enthusiasm these local organizations bring to their projects is really exciting. They are doing some very important work to protect and conserve the Gulf's ecosystem."

The following groups received grants:

  • Atlantic Canada Conservation Data Centre, Sackville, NB - $10,000, to compile data on rare, endangered and keystone marine vertebrate species.
  • Atlantic Coastal Action Program, St. John, NB - $10,000, to establish standard methods for monitoring chemical contaminants across the Gulf of Maine. 
  • Bay of Fundy Marine Resource Centre, Mascarene, NB - $10,000, to study local cod stocks for restoration in the Bay of Fundy.
  • College of the Atlantic, Bar Harbor, ME - $8,435, to design a baseline study in the Union River watershed.
  • Cumberland County Soil and Water Conservation District, Gorham, ME - $10,033, to partner with Bowdoin College to establish a volunteer water quality monitoring program for the Gully and Harraseeket River.
  • Gulf of Maine Aquarium, Portland, ME - $9,875, to develop a Gulf of Maine research portal. 
  • Lobster Conservancy, Friendship, ME - $10,000, to develop a volunteer-based lobster monitoring program.
  • Ecology Action Centre, Halifax, NS - $10,000, to develop the Marine Invertebrate Diversity Initiative (MIDI).
  • Massachusetts Audubon Society/Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Santuary - $6,482, for the Wellfleet Bay Barrier Beaches Restoration Project.
  • Nature Conservancy of Canada, Fredericton, NB - $6,344, for a stewardship program for the Brier Island Nature Preserve.
  • Planning Alliance of the Damariscotta River Estuary, ME - $5,200, to publish and distribute Model Municipal Erosion Control & Storm Water provisions. 
  • Salem Sound 2000/Beaches Buddies Program, Salem, MA - $4,414, to raise awareness about marine debris, organize clean-ups, and conduct a marine debris survey. 
  • Salisbury Beach Betterment Association, Salisbury, MA - $8,895, to develop a dune restoration and public education initiative.
  • Town of Ogunquit, ME - $1,810, to design a public education campaign on clam resources protection.
  • University of New Hampshire/Jackson Estuarine Laboratory, Durham - $9,996, to restore habitat of South Mill Pond to improve fisheries and water quality.

For more information contact Cindy Krum
US Gulf of Maine Association
PO Box 2246
So Portland ME 04116

Back to the top...

Baby whale boom

Biologists counted 16 North Atlantic right whale calves in the waters off Florida and Georgia this winter. The whales return to feeding grounds in the Gulf of Maine in the spring. Federal researchers say there are more calves now than in the last three years combined, raising hope that the population, long estimated at 300, is growing.

Back to the top...

Safety bill for fishermen

To aid fishermen in improving safety on-board their vessels, U.S. Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) has introduced the Commercial Fishermen Safety Act of 2001, offering tax credits to fishermen for 75 percent of the purchase price of federally-required safety equipment up to $1,500. Dwindling stocks of some commercially valuable species have forced fishermen to fish farther away from shore and stay out longer at sea. The longer distances require increased skills in navigation, communications and weather forecasting, abilities some fishermen who have been forced from their usual fishing zones might not have. The act hopes to reduce the occupational hazards of fishing. For more information, contact the office of Senator Collins at

Back to the top...

Priorities for the Gulf
Your input is welcome

The Gulf of Maine Council is seeking input on the draft of its July 2001 to 2006 action plan. The Council expects to adopt a final plan during its May 24th and 25th meeting. The draft builds upon the current 1996 to 2001 action plan. The Council is also exploring a role it might play in a number of emerging issues including aquatic nuisance species, environmentally sustainable marine-based economic activity, land use impacts and using best management practices. Please let the Council know if you think its three goals and supporting measurable objectives are on target. Visit the Council's Web page and complete a quick, 13 question online survey, or review and comment on the full draft [ and click on action plan 2001-2006].

Contact Laura Marron, Council coordinator at (603) 271-8866, or for more information.

Back to the top...

MPA listserver and report

To obtain or contribute information about marine protected areas, or MPAs, in the Gulf of Maine, log on to the Gulf of Maine Marine Protected Areas listserver (GoMMPAS). Launched in January to encourage public discussion about the role of MPAs, the moderated e-mail forum is hosted by Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary (SBNMS) and endorsed by the Gulf of Maine Council on the Marine Environment. MPAs are geographically defined areas in the ocean where human activities are limited (see Gulf of Maine Times, winter 2000). 

GoMMPAS enables subscribers to receive, share and discuss MPA-related information as it becomes available. To receive a copy of the subscription information file, send a message to:, with subject "Info gommpas". For additional infomation contact the list moderators, Ben Cowie-Haskell at SBNMS, (781) 545-8026 ext. 207, or Derek Fenton, Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, (902) 426-2201.

In other MPA news, a recent report from the U.S. National Research Council endorses a national system of marine protected areas to overcome the limitations of conventional practices used to conserve vulnerable ocean resources. The report also endorses increased use of marine reserves where the removal or disturbance of some or all living resources is completely prohibited. Copies of Marine Protected Areas: Tools for Sustaining Ocean Ecosystems are available from the National Academy Press, (202) 334-3314, or 1-800-624-6242.

Back to the top...