Establishing Historic Baselines and Time Series for Rebuilding Anadromous Fish Populations and Coastal Marine Ecosystems in the Gulf of Maine
|William B. Leavenworth||UNH - Department of History||Associate Investigator|
|Theo Willis||University of Southern Maine||Collaborator|
|Karen Alexander||UNH - Department of History||Associate Investigator|
|Matthew McKenzie||University of Connecticut - Avery Point||Collaborator|
|Jamie Cournane (Leff)||UNH - Ocean Process Analysis Laboratory||Collaborator|
|Natalie Springuel||Maine Sea Grant||Collaborator|
|John Crawford||Boston University||Collaborator|
|Adrian Jordaan||Stony Brook University||Collaborator|
|Diadromous Species Restoration Research Network (DSRRN)||Research Collaboration|
|Carolyn Hall||Stony Brook University||Collaborator|
|SeaPlan/ Massachusetts Ocean Partnership||Research Collaboration|
|Les Kaufman||Boston University||Collaborator|
|Irit Altman||UNH - Department of Biological Sciences||Collaborator|
|Bruce Bourque||Maine State Museum||Collaborator|
|Meghan Howey||UNH - Department of Anthropology||Collaborator|
|Beverly Johnson||Bates College||Collaborator|
|Karen Wilson||University of Southern Maine||Collaborator|
|Art Spiess||Maine Archaeological Society||Collaborator|
|Robert Steneck||University of Maine Darling Marine Center||Collaborator|
|Joan Trial||Maine Department of Marine Resources||Collaborator|
|Stephen Jones||N.H. Sea Grant||Collaborator|
|W. Jeffrey Bolster||UNH - Department of History||Principal Investigator|
|Adrienne Kovach||UNH - Department of Natural Resources & the Environment||Collaborator|
Book based on historic fish population research receives two prestigious awards
Based in part on his N.H. Sea Grant-funded research on 19th century fishing records, W. Jeffrey Bolster wrote “The Mortal Sea: Fishing the Atlantic in the Age of Sail” about the impacts of fishing on the North Atlantic ecosystem over the last four hundred years. In 2013, the book, published by Harvard University Press, received two prestigious awards: The Albert J. Beveridge Award given by the American Historical Association for “the best English-language book on American history from 1492 to the present,” and the James A. Rawley Price in Atlantic History, given by the American Historical Association “to recognize outstanding historical writing that explores aspects of integration of Atlantic worlds before the 20th century.” Continued praise for this book indicates a wide-reaching interest in this topic, helping to educate the public about historic fish populations and place current stock structures into historic context.
Protocols Developed for Alewife Culture Lead to Direct Economic Benefits for Business
RELEVANCE: Smelt, alewives and blueback herring comprise the most dominant anadromous species in the Great Bay Estuary and support limited fisheries. However, recent coastwide declines in their populations are causing concern. Producing alewives via aquaculture could aid in both stock enhancement and marine baitfish supply, taking some pressure off the wild populations to ensure their sustainability.
RESPONSE: NHSG-funded researchers developed protocols in 2012 for alewife broodstock spawning, larviculture and juvenile rearing, including the establishment of salinity tolerances for larval and juvenile alewives. Researchers demonstrated the ability to successfully mass-produce thousands of young alewives in an aquaculture setting.
RESULTS: Harmon Brook Farm in Caanan, Maine, is using these protocols to culture alewives for marine baitfish purposes. This company has benefited financially from the production and sale of alewives based on these protocols and they plan to increase production in the coming years.
RECAP: NHSG-funded researchers developed alewife aquaculture protocols that are being used in a marine baitfish supply business, providing direct economic benefits.
Book About Historic Fishing in the Atlantic Wins Bancroft Prize
NHSG-funded researchers analyzed 19th century fishing records to help establish baselines and time series for rebuilding anadromous fish populations and coastal ecosystems in the Gulf of Maine. Based in part on these historical analyses, the P.I. , W. Jeffrey Bolster, wrote The Mortal Sea: Fishing the Atlantic in the Age of Sail about the impacts of fishing on the North Atlantic ecosystem over the last four hundred years. The book, published by Harvard University Press in 2012, received the prestigious Bancroft Prize from Columbia University and is one of the best-selling books in the categories of marine biology, fisheries and aquaculture, and ecosystems on Amazon.com. The Mortal Sea provides both the general public and scientists with a thorough overview of long-term fisheries trends and impacts from humans.
Historic Records Provide Guidance for Fisheries Managers
In an effort to establish historic forage fish population baselines for the Gulf of Maine, researchers funded by N.H. Sea Grant have made significant progress in digitizing and extracting data about alewife and shad populations from fish inspector reports and fish commission reports in Maine and Massachusetts variously ranging from 1804-1960. These data indicate that from 1880 to 1930 fish ladders were relatively successful at maintaining low to moderate populations of alewives that were harvested relatively sustainably by weirs until offshore landings began in the 1950s. In addition, the contribution of small streams emptying into estuaries to Maine’s diadromous fish population was substantial and has been overlooked in models that focus only on the production of large rivers. These findings will allow fisheries managers to improve model estimates and establish more accurate historic baselines in order to help rebuild anadromous fish populations.
Book Chapters Describe Daily Life and Catch Estimates from the Scotian Shelf
NHSG-funded researchers are working to digitize and extract data from fish inspector reports and fish commission reports in Maine and Massachusetts variously ranging from 1804-1908. As part of this effort, one researcher edited the book “Shifting Baselines: The Past and Future of Ocean Fisheries” and the others co-wrote two chapters for the book, which presented material from the historic New England cod fisheries. One of these two chapters described the Scotian Shelf fishery, uniting descriptive narrative about historical life at sea with the scientific analysis of the decline of catch and cod stocks. The collapse of the fishery is described in the words of the fishermen who suffered the consequences, and the abundance estimate of cod on the Scotian Shelf is explained in historic terms. The other chapter describes how lessons learned from both the Frenchman’s Bay and the Scotian Shelf fishery are applied to current management strategies and the gratifying increase in alewife abundance after the removal of the Edwards Dam in Maine is cited as good news for this endangered species. Shifting Baselines is the first book on the subject and investigates how historic perspectives apply to the crisis in fisheries management.
Lecture Series Focuses on Topics Related to Historic Fish Data
NHSG-funded researchers are working to digitize and extract data from fish inspector reports and fish commission reports in Maine and Massachusetts variously ranging from 1804-1908. Based largely on this research, the 2010-11 UNH Sidore Memorial Lecture Series in the Humanities focused on “Sea Stories for the Future: Interdisciplinary conversations on historic oceans and contemporary marine science.” Faculty members from universities throughout the U.S. and Canada presented a variety of topics related to the past, present and future of the ocean, and the implications for human populations of changes in the sea. Audience attendees for the five-lecture series included students and academics from UNH and other institutions, policy makers, fishermen and the general public.
Research on Forage Fish Records Helps Guide Gulf of Maine Population Models
RELEVANCE: Populations of forage fish — specifically, alewives and shad — in rivers near the Gulf of Maine have declined dramatically in the last century. However, very little is known about their status prior to the declines, how human activities affected their populations, and how declining populations affected the Gulf of Maine.
RESPONSE: Researchers supported by N.H. Sea Grant have made significant progress in digitizing and extracting data about alewife and shad populations as well as predator species from fish inspector reports and fish commission reports in Maine and Massachusetts variously ranging from 1804-1960.
RESULTS: These data are being incorporated into analytical models to determine the ecological and economic role of forage species in the Gulf of Maine and helped fisheries managers to develop a new method of estimating species abundance and distribution. The Boston-based non-profit group SeaPlan is beginning to incorporate the long time-series and spatial distribution patterns of alewives generated by this project into MIMES/MIDAS scenario-building models of nearshore ecosystems and coastal economies in the Gulf of Maine. In addition, the University of Maine’s Diadromous Species Restoration Research Network has used these data to explore new analytical techniques, such as variability analysis, to estimate changes in abundance of Maine alewives and other diadromous species over time.
RECAP: NHSG-funded researchers digitized and extracted data about alewife and shad populations from the 19th- and 20th centuries, allowing fishery managers to incorporate the data into their population model estimates and establish better historical baselines for the Gulf of Maine forage species and their predators.
Researchers Develop Catch Density Method to Standardize Catch by Area Fished
NHSG-funded researchers have made significant progress in digitizing and extracting data about alewife, shad and other forage fish populations from Maine and Mass. fish inspector reports and Maine, Mass. and U.S. fish commission reports variously ranging from 1804-1960s. Using these data, researchers developed “catch density,” a method to standardize catch by area fished rather than fishing effort. Catch density is already being used by other fisheries managers, in one case to determine the importance of alewife young-of-the-year in providing key forage for inshore groundfish populations.
Studies of Fisheries Histories Aid Restoration Efforts in the Gulf of Maine
Populations of alewives and shad in rivers near the Gulf of Maine have declined dramatically in the last century. However, very little is known about their status prior to the declines, how human activities affected their populations, and how declining populations affected the Gulf of Maine. With funding provided by N.H. Sea Grant, researchers are digitizing and extracting data about alewife and shad populations in Gulf of Maine from Maine and Massachusetts State Fish Inspectors Reports from 1804-ca. 1900 and Connecticut and Vermont Fish Commissioners Reports. These data will provide a more thorough understanding of long-term population changes to improve anadromous fish restoration efforts currently taking place throughout the Gulf of Maine region.
Available from the National Sea Grant Library (use NHU number to search) or NH Sea Grant
- Willis, T., K. Wilson, K. Alexander and W. Leavenworth (2013). Tracking cod diet preference over a century in the northern Gulf of Maine: historic data and modern analysis. Marine Ecology Progress Series 474:263-276, 2013.
- Alexander, K., W. Leavenworth, S. Claesson and W. Bolster (2011). Catch density: a new approach to shifting baselines, stock assessment, and ecosystem-based management. Bulletin of Marine Science 87(2):213-234, April 2011.
- Bolster, W.J., K. Alexander and W. Leavenworth (2011). The historical abundance of cod on the Nova Scotian shelf. In J.B.C. Jackson, K. Alexander and E. Sala (Eds.), Shifting Baselines: the past and the future of ocean fisheries (pp. 79-113). Washington, DC: Island Press.
- Rosenberg, A., K. Alexander and J. Cournane (2011). Management in the Gulf of Maine. In J.B.C. Jackson, K. Alexander and E. Sala (Eds.), Shifting Baselines: the past and the future of ocean fisheries (pp. 177-191). Washington, DC: Island Press.
- Jackson, J.B.C., K.E. Alexander and E. Sala (editors). Shifting baselines: the past and the future of ocean fisheries. Island Press, 2011.
- Bolster, W.J. The mortal sea: fishing the Atlantic in the age of sail. Harvard University Press, 2012.