Protecting cashes ledge: remarkable ocean habitat under threat.

Author:Brooks, Priscilla
 
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THE PROBLEM

About 100 miles southeast of Portland, Maine, Cashes Ledge rises from the ocean floor, peaking just 40 feet from the water's surface. This massive underwater mountain range is as old as New Hampshire's Presidentials--and as beautiful, though far fewer people have experienced its grandeur.

That relative isolation has made Cashes Ledge one of the best remaining examples of an undisturbed ocean ecosystem in the entire Gulf of Maine. Home to the deepest and largest coldwater kelp forest along the Atlantic coast, Cashes Ledge provides food and habitat for species both common and rare. It's become a vital refuge for threatened groundfish species, such as Atlantic cod, whose populations have been depleted in other parts of the Gulf. Cashes Ledge's abundance also draws in ocean wildlife, such as migrating schools of bluefin tuna, blue and porbeagle sharks, and passing pods of highly endangered North Atlantic right whales.

The very things that make Cashes Ledge such a haven for ocean wildlife also make it especially vulnerable to commercial fishing, especially bottom trawling gear. A trawl could ravage the seafloor and devastate the tremendous diversity of plants and wildlife that flourish here.

Cashes Ledge has been closed to bottom trawling and scallop dredging for 15 years, but a shortsighted proposal from the New England Fishery Management Council 1NEFMC) could see 75 percent of this critical protected habitat opened to commercial fishing by next year.

CLF IN ACTION

Our ocean and the communities--human, fish, and animal--that depend on it are under severe pressure from decades of overfishing. Climate change is expected to increase these stressors by altering ocean temperatures, salinity, and acidity, making life even harder for species already strained by overfishing.

CLF has worked for decades to ensure responsible, science-based management of our oceans and to overcome irresponsible fisheries management that has encouraged, rather than controlled, overfishing...

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