Cashes Ledge Permanent Protection Campaign

Seeking to protect a unique environment for marine life…

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Grant Recipient: Conservation Law Foundation
Project Support: Cashes Ledge Permanent Protection Campaign
Term: 2012-2014

About Conservation Law Foundation

Since 1966, Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) has used the law, science, policy-making, and the business market to find pragmatic, innovative solutions to New England’s toughest environmental problems. Whether that means cleaning up Boston Harbor, protecting ocean fisheries to ensure continued supply, stopping unnecessary highway construction in scenic areas, or expanding access to public transportation, they are driven to make all of New England a better place to live, work, and play. What’s more, CLF has the toughness to hold polluters accountable, and the tenacity to see complex challenges through to their conclusion. CLF is also nimble enough to adjust course as conditions change to achieve the best outcomes. Their goal is not to preserve what used to be, but to create an even better New England — a region that’s truly thriving.

Cashes Ledge Permanent Protection Campaign

Cashes Ledge, located in the Gulf of Maine about 80 miles east of Cape Ann, Massachusetts, is a unique underwater mountain range with a virtual treasure trove of marine life living among its peaks and valleys. The steep ridge rises from basins hundreds of feet deep to a ledge that comes within 40 feet of the surface. The ledge’s peak, known as Ammen Rock, punctures the ocean current and forces water to swirl around the underwater mountains. This results in a unique environment where nutrient- and oxygen-rich water mix at a depth exposed to sunlight, resulting in ideal conditions for marine life.

Cashes Ledge is also home to the deepest and largest cold water kelp forest along the Atlantic seaboard and provides an important source of food for the vast array of ocean wildlife that lives there. The diverse habitat of Cashes Ledge, ranging from rocky outcroppings to deep mud basins, provides refuge for common New England fish such as cod and pollock and rare species like the Atlantic wolffish. This abundance draws in even more ocean wildlife like migrating schools of bluefin tuna, blue and porbeagle sharks, and passing pods of highly endangered North Atlantic right whales and humpback whales.

Cashes Ledge is important not only to marine life but also to scientists hoping to learn about the health and function of New England’s oceans – many scientists believe that Cashes Ledge represents the best remaining example of an undisturbed Gulf of Maine ecosystem. As a result, scientists have used Cashes Ledge as an underwater laboratory to which they have compared other, more degraded habitat in the Gulf of Maine.

Cashes Ledge is extremely susceptible to damage from bottom trawling gear. The kelp forests on Ammen Rock would take at least ten years to recover if stripped by a trawl. The New England Fishery Management Council (NEFMC) placed much of the area under temporary protection from bottom trawling and scallop dredging in 2002. However, a wide array of other commercial fishing gear such as bottom gillnets, midwater trawls, purse seines and lobster pots are allowed. The NEFMC may soon take action to reopen a large portion of Cashes Ledge to trawling.

The Conservation Law Foundation is seeking permanent protection for Cashes Ledge. CLF has developed a partnership with National Geographic photographer Brian Skerry and marine biologist Jon Witman of Brown University. CLF has gained the support of hundreds of scientists and biologists and is working to gain the support of commercial and recreational fishermen, conservation groups, other ocean user groups and regional officials.

Resources/Media:

Conservation Law Foundation Website
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