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Ocean Ecosystem Research & Education: Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary

SERAOcean ecosystems are degraded and suffering. Discover how and why. Take action with Stellwagen Alive and ORI to better understand what is happening with a Sanctuary Ecological Research Area (SERA). Please sign our letter and state why you care.

Sanctuary mapped in blue shows most fishing effort is outside of research areas. Middle box to be closed to all fishing.


Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary is a vital ocean realm. Home to over five hundred species of sea creatures, part of four ecosystems as defined by bottom types: sand, gravel, mud and boulder. Ecosystems of Stellwagen have been damaged and are at risk of great losses. Join with us in a campaign to understand better the how’s and why’s of ocean ecosystem research. Discover how together we can rescue ocean habitats for the fish, for the whales, for our ways of lives.

The SERA proposal calls for closing to fishing only 14% of the Sanctuary with an additional and adjacent 15% closed to either commercial or recreational fishing while researching the impacts of the other.  The no-fishing reference area that excludes all forms of fishing is called Subarea A. Research in Subarea A would address questions related to the coupling of pelagic and seafloor communities. For example, research elsewhere has demonstrated that pelagic predators pursue prey towards the seafloor and enhance feeding opportunities for demersal and other pelagic species (e.g., Auster et al., 2009). The no-fishing reference site would allow research that assesses the full suite of seafloor habitat impacts, as well as linkages between pelagic and demersal-benthic communities, especially those mediated by the behavior of highly mobile species.  Subarea A would also protect four shipwrecks at three sites currently listed on the National Register of Historic Places from adverse impacts due to fishing.

As the first step, the proposal is submitted to the New England Fishery Management Council (NEFMC) for inclusion in its Essential Fish Habitat (EFH) Amendment process, under provisions of the Northeast Multispecies Fishery Management Plan, pursuant to authorization under the Magnuson Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MFCMA).

–Preamble, SERA DRAFT Proposal, September 2011

Because this proposal is comprehensive in scope, it will be submitted for consideration to the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council (for provisions in the proposal regarding dogfish, bluefish, surf clam and ocean quahog management) and to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (for provisions regarding menhaden, lobster and pink shrimp management), the latter pursuant to authorization under the Atlantic Coastal Fishery Cooperative and Management Act, as well as to the NMFS Highly Migratory Species Management Division (for provisions regarding bluefin tuna, billfish and shark management), pursuant to authorization under the MFCMA and the Atlantic Tunas Conservation Act.

–Preamble, SERA DRAFT Proposal, September 2011

Discover why ocean ecosystems are degraded and suffering.

Take action with Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary to better understand ecosystem-based management and what is happening to our coastal waters.


When the National Marine Fisheries Service failed to take steps necessary to prevent the decline of river herring, sea herring and shad populations, a recreational fisherman, a charter boat captain and the Ocean River Institute took the government to court. Represented by Earthjustice, the lawsuit was decided in our favor.

Environmental advocates allied with fishermen to move the New England Fishery Management Council and NMFS to include an ecosystem-based approach to management in addition to population-based and fish stock management for maximum sustainable yield.

The ruling forces regulators to protect fish species at the base of food chains.  Managers must now regulate to ensure sufficient numbers of forage fish survive to feed other animals that include striped bass, bluefish, tuna, whales and seabirds.

Take action with the Ocean River Institute for ocean ecosystem research and savvy stewardship