Dr. Rowe with a large cod to be tagged and released in Bonavista Corridor. Credit: Laura Wheeland c/o Dr. George Rose.
They're Back, Cod in Newfoundland

"The great northern cod comeback: A once decimated cod stock is making a strong comeback after nearly two decades of decline." Reports ScienceDaily, 27 October 2015.

"Using acoustic-trawl surveys of the main prespawning and spawning components of the stock, we show that biomass has increased from tens of thousands of tonnes to >200 thousand tonnes within the last decade."

"The increase was signaled by massive schooling behaviour in late winter, perhaps spurred by immigration. Increases in size composition and fish condition and apparent declines in mortality followed, leading to growth rates approaching 30% per annum."

"The cod rebound has paralleled increases in the abundance of capelin (Mallotus villosus), whose abundance declined rapidly in the cold early 1990s but has recently increased during a period of warm ocean temperatures. With continued growth in the capelin stock and frugal management (low fishing mortality), this stock could rebuild, perhaps within less than a decade, to historical levels of sustainable yield."

William Balch fired a probe.  Photo David L. Ryan /Boston Globe Staff
Fivefold Decrease in Phytoplankton Linked to Increased Sediments from the Land

Scientists with the Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, collecting offshore data for 17 years, have found an increase in sediments flowing from the land into the Gulf of Maine.  This observation is consistent with excessive fertilizer application combined with the lawning of New England.  Meanwhile sediment run-off from road work, building and forestry operations have improved. 

Sediments in the ocean absorb light that would otherwise allow phytoplankton to bloom.  Bigelow scientists have observed a fivefold decline in the growth rate of phytoplankton at the bottom of the food pyramids.  However, because they did not report a corresponding decrease in water clarity I wonder if the phytoplankton are suffering from toxins such as herbicides.  

Coincidentally, Falmouth still has green grass after they implemented a fivefold decrease in lawn nitrogen to save striped bass. We all must practice responsible stewardship to stop the hemorrhaging into waterways. 

If you live in Massachusetts you can help stop the killing of striped bass with excessive lawn fertilizer by visiting our campaign page. Please sign and comment on the petition and then please forward to friends and family.  Join in the call on Beacon Hill from 350 MA municipalities to get nitrogen out of our waterways and fertilizer profiteers out of our wallets.

Humpback Whales and Wilson Petrel, Photo R Moir

This week on Moir's Environmental Dialogue Rob spoke with Alexander Zamarro.  Alex is ORI's Fall Intern, a recent graduate of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and a resident of Worcester.

We talked about protecting essential fish habitats in the Atlantic Ocean for oil, gas and mineral mining.  This undersea area includes Cashes Ledge in the Gulf of Maine, five canyons of the continental slope waters off Georges Bank and four blue water seamounts.  Cashes Ledge has lush kelp forests with six foot fronds and an indigenous cod that is red in color, not gray.  This underwater mountain range has four distinct ocean floor (benthic) habitats.  Gravel ocean floors are essential habitat for the demersal fish: cod, haddock, pollock and hake. Sandy bottom has monkfish that bury into it and lure fish in. The muddy bottom areas are where Acadian redfish and sea anemones live.   Finally there are boulder reefs where lurk the toothy wolfish.  We know Cashes Ledge is of great ecological importance because at times there are more humpback whales feeding there than anywhere else.

Oceanographer Canyon and four further east are where sperm live and feed on squid.  Further offshore are four pristine deep seamounts, each with its own distinctive assemblage of deep sea corals and marine life. To listen to Alex and Rob, click here. 

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