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In the News | September 2023

First published in Landings, September 2023

Sailing Drones Ply Gulf of Maine

National Wildlife Federation image.

Keep an eye out for two small robotic sailboats cruising through the Gulf of Maine to collect “high-resolution seafloor bathymetry and backscatter data along predetermined survey tracklines” for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. These high-visibility bright orange vehicles are not crewed. The 23-foot Saildrone Voyager vehicles operate independently 24 hours a day, using wind and solar power to cruise at 2 to 4 knots along pre-determined waypoints. They are equipped with Automatic Identification System transponders, navigation lights, radar reflectors and cameras. The Saildrones will be operating in the Gulf of Maine through October 18.

Another Wind Farm Approval

The Department of the Interior announced in late August that it approved another offshore wind energy project to be located in federal waters near Rhode Island south of Martha’s Vineyard. The Revolution Wind project will have an estimated capacity of more than 700 megawatts of renewable energy, capable of powering nearly 250,000 homes, and is expected to create about 1,200 jobs during construction, regulators said. The project’s proposed plan will include 65 wind turbines and two offshore substations. This is the department’s fourth approval of a commercial-scale, offshore wind energy project, joining the Vineyard Wind project off Massachusetts, the South Fork Wind project off Rhode Island and New York, and the Ocean Wind 1 project off New Jersey.

Gulf of St. Lawrence Deep Water Layers Heating Up

Data from Fisheries and Oceans Canada show that deepwater temperatures in the Gulf of St. Lawrence have been increasing overall since 2009. In 2022, average temperatures hit new record highs at depths of 150 to 300 meters throughout the Gulf and passed the threshold of 7 C. (44.6 F.) at 300 meters for the first time. Average monthly temperatures at the sea surface also set new records in August and September 2022, the data showed. The news is worrisome to oceanographers, who say they’re already seeing the impact of the warming water on different species in the Gulf, such as an increase in sightings of great white sharks in parts of the Gulf, and of lobsters expanding into new places that might have been too cold a decade earlier.

Found a Blue Crab?

National Wildlife Federation image.

Blue crabs, once found solely below Cape Cod, are showing up more frequently in the Gulf of Maine as waters warm. Manomet and the Maine Department of Marine Fisheries are calling on fishermen to track and report their sightings and observations through an online survey. Blue crabs are aggressive and tend to prey on young lobsters and shellfish, so a growing population could pose a threat to Maine’s lobster fishery, as well as oyster farmers and clam diggers. On the other hand, blue crabs support a strong commercial fishery in mid-Atlantic states. Anyone who finds a blue crab is encouraged to report it here.

Maritime Provinces Herring Quota Cut

Atlantic Herring. Firstwatch photo.

The Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans has set the herring quota for waters off southwestern Nova Scotia and New Brunswick at 21,000 tons for 2023, an 11% reduction from the previous year. DFO said the herring stock in the region is in a critical zone — where serious harm is occurring — for the fifth year in a row, based on the most recent assessment. The yearly quota has dropped by 50% since 2018.


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