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USGS-NMFS Benthic Habitat Cruise to Closed Area on Georges Bank

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The USGS and NMFS conducted a joint cruise to southeastern Georges Bank aboard the NOAA research vessel Albatross IV from June 2-11, 1999. A large area of the bank (Closed Area II) has been closed to all fishing since December, 1994, for the purpose of conserving important commercial groundfish species such as cod, haddock and yellowtail flounder. During this period, the sea scallop population has rebounded. In a controversial decision, the New England Fisheries Management Council agreed to open a large part of Closed Area II (1280 nm2) to scallop dredging for a limited period of time beginning June 15.

The purpose of the cruise was: 1) to survey the benthic infauna, groundfish and scallops in a range of sandy habitats and bottom current conditions in depths of 45 to 95 m; and 2) to compare the geology and biology of undisturbed benthic habitats within the closed area with disturbed habitats that lie along the margins outside of the closed area where trawling and dredging have been permitted all along. Data were collected from 47 stations and included video and photo transects, sediment samples for analysis of texture, benthic infauna, and organic chemistry, and bottom trawls for groundfish and scallops.

Cruise participants included fisheries scientists from: the NMFS Northeast Region labs in Sandy Hook, NJ (Rob Reid, Dave Packer and Tony Paulson), the NMFS Woods Hole, MA (Frank Almeida, Jason Link and Nina Shepard), the NOAA National Undersea Research Center at the University of Connecticut (Peter Auster); and USGS personnel from the WHFC (Page Valentine, Dann Blackwood and Dave Nichols).

This is the first time the USGS and NMFS have undertaken a joint project in the New England region that focuses on the impact of fishing gear on essential fish habitats. A similar five-day cruise will be conducted in the Closed Area I region in Great South Channel on the western margin of Georges Bank in July.

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Gulf of Mexico Cruise

Georges Bank Benthic Habitat

Channel Islands

Lake Mead

Cruise News: R/V Gilbert

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Outreach Nat'l Ocean Sciences Bowl

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