What Does the Seafloor Say?
On June 1, 1999, the research vessel Albatross IV set out on a ten-day cruise of the eastern Georges Bank. Built in 1962 for the National Marine Fisheries Service’s (NMFS) biological lab at Woods Hole, the Albatross IV is specially equipped to collect information on the distribution and habitat of groundfish and sea scallops in the Northwest Atlantic Ocean.
Georges Bank is the southernmost part of a chain of huge shoals that extend from Newfoundland to southern New England, on the edge of the North American continental shelf. They were one of the world’s richest fishing grounds until the last decades of this century, when overfishing on a massive scale brought many fish populations, including cod, haddock, herring, and scallops, to the brink of commercial extinction. “In the last ten years a huge amount of biomass has been removed,” says Dr. Jeff Cross, Chief of the Ecosystem Process Division of the Northeast Fisheries Science Center of the National Marine Fisheries Service. “Some areas were trawled several times a year.”