Evaluating seafloor habitats in the Gulf of Maine

Recent study that estimated change in benthic communities over decades and between areas open and closed to fishing in the Gulf of Maine to help inform fisheries management in the region.

A recent research study led by Samuel Asci '16, former graduate student at UMass Dartmouth’s School for Marine Science & Technology (SMAST), examined benthic habitats in the central Gulf of Maine using historic photographs from a series of manned-submersible dives in the late 1980s and an underwater video survey camera developed by scientists at SMAST. Several of the surveyed areas have been permanently closed to fishing while one of the surveyed areas has remained open, which enabled a spatial comparison of open and closed areas to assess impacts of continual commercial fishing.

The first part of the study compared findings from recent drop camera surveys to historic findings from a series of manned-submersible dives conducted in the same area roughly three decades before. The authors found an unchanged scallop population between 1986 and 2014, and attributed differences in other dominant species to predator-prey dynamics and long-term shifts in benthic conditions.

Digital still images of the dominant benthic invertebrate species
Digital still images of the dominant benthic invertebrate species evaluated in Asci et al. 2018: A. Atlantic sea scallops Placopecten magellanicus, B. cerianthid anemone Cerianthus borealis, C. myxicolid worm Myxicola infundibulum, D. Northern sea star Asterias vulgaris. Photo courtesy Sam Asci.

The second part of the study used drop camera data to describe similarity of seafloor habitats in areas of the Gulf of Maine that were closed to fishing compared to an area that was open to continual fishing. The authors found great similarity between the open and closed areas, indicating the central Gulf of Maine is a high-energy environment and therefore resilient to both natural and fishing disturbance.  

Learn more and find out the results of Asci’s study “Estimating similarity in benthic communities over decades and in areas open and closed to fishing in the Central Gulf of Maine, USA,” which appears in the May 14, 2018 issue (Vol. 595:15-26) of the Marine Ecology Progress Series.  Asci earned his MS in Marine Science and Technology at SMAST in 2016. SMAST Professor Kevin Stokesbury and Richard W. Langton of the Northeast Fisheries Science Center are collaborators on the study.


Degree Type MS, Features Alumni feature (SMAST) Alumni, Research, School for Marine Science and Technology