Protecting Ocean Ecosystems

A Marine National Monument for Marine Mammals

A North Atlantic right whale mother and calf. Photo by Brian Skerry.

New England is home a number of marine mammal species, including endangered right whales. Naturalists from the New England whale watch industry and the Vice President of Research at the New England Aquarium commented on the importance of protecting the Cashes Ledge area and the New England Coral Canyons and Seamounts for marine mammals and our ocean.

ZACK KLYVER, Naturalist, Bar Harbor Whale Watch, Bar Harbor Maine:

“I think what’s important, as a Mainer, is that our most important industry is tourism. More than fisheries and agriculture put together.”

“I had good fortune in 2011 our company was hired by the New England Aquarium to do winter right whale surveys on the coast of Maine. In mid-December we saw 35 right whales. We wound up on Cashes at sunset, there were right whales breaching into the sunset. It is clear to me that this is s a significant place for marine mammals all year.”

“Making this a monument is important, to have a place that’s undisturbed, that is off limits to development would be so important. We need some special places in the ocean, that’s not too much to ask.”

Dr. SCOTT KRAUS, Vice President of Research, New England Aquarium:

“These are all critical habitats for whales, dolphins, and porpoises in New England. They are dependent upon the food and ecosystems beneath the surface, so by protecting this kind of place we protect whales and dolphins. And in the face of increasing ocean industrialization these animals need places to go where they can remain undisturbed.”

“We have just completed an analysis of the distribution of whales and dolphins around the Cashes Ledge area and the canyons and seamounts of New England. What really stands out about the whole area is that the landscape underwater has got a lot of steep angles and hills, and the sides of these canyons are really steep so that any water currents that come in there really rush to the surface. What that does is it makes nutrients rush up. That makes plankton bloom, it brings fish in, so it’s a great restaurant for the whales and dolphins of New England.”

“Cashes has a diversity of marine mammals and a number of right whales. I focus on right whales because they are the ones in most urgent need of protection. In the Gulf of Maine, they use it for feeding, mating, and migration. Some of this takes place in and around Cashes Ledge and especially just to the north, an area called Jordan’s Basin is probably the mid- winter mating ground for right whales for the entire north Atlantic, and it is just adjacent to Cashes.”

LAURA HAUSE, Naturalist Program Director at New England Aquarium in partnership with Boston Harbor Cruises:

“Cashes Ledge is extremely important for what we do on the whale watch. Here at Boston Harbor Cruises we take about 120,000 people a year whale watching, we have four boats, it’s a huge part of the economy”

“Whales are moving all throughout the Gulf of Maine and Cashes Ledge is a pristine, productive environment, so it can be vital habitat for these whales. And seeing whales is important for a whale watch so we want healthy environment for them.”

“Many if not all our marine mammals we see here are protected or endangered. For example the North Atlantic Right whale, they are almost extinct, and Cashes Ledge may be a may be a mating ground for them. So obviously you want to protect these areas to help the animals survive. I know now there is a temporary closure [on Cashes Ledge] but something more permanent would be helpful.”


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