John on Press Herald Post


From the deck of a boat it all just looks like water.  But from a fish eye view, this is a wonderful place.

Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary is at the ecological heart of the Gulf of Maine.  This is where cold nutrient-rich water, pushed south by the Maine Coastal Current, washes over deep basins, boulder fields, sand banks and dramatically rugged terrain.  Plankton blooms support prolific populations of bait fish.   Forage draws cod and flounder, tuna, sharks, whales, porpoise, dolphins, seals, sea birds and diversity of species that all come there to feed.

This is the fountainhead for life in the Gulf of Maine.

Nestled into the mouth of Massachusetts Bay, 900 square miles between Cape Ann and Cape Cod, the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary is an urban sanctuary.  Designated by Congress in 1991, Stellwagen is surrounded by the 6 million persons of the Boston metro-region.  One of the ten best places in the world to watch whales is within sight of the Boston skyline.

This is where human population meets ocean wilderness head-on.  Industrial development, shipping, and commercial fishing compromise every aspect of ecology.  A sanctuary in name only, without protection it is approaching crisis.

Over 200 people have labored for six years to craft management recommendations for Stellwagen.  But the management plan has been released without any regulatory proposals.  This is New England’s National Marine Sanctuary.  The planning issues are ones that we will soon confront in coastal Maine as well.