This is a time of great change for the Gulf of Maine. Over the last 40 years, the region’s waters have seen drastic declines in groundfish, an explosion in the lobster population, a decline in many native species, and an influx of new species from outside the region.
These types of changes are complex, interconnected, and almost impossible to unravel without access to rich, long-term data sets. This summer GMRI launched the Casco Bay Aquatic System Survey (CBASS)—a long-term, comprehensive survey to secure this vital information about the nearshore environment around Casco Bay.
“The real strength of this project is the scope and duration of its vision,” said Graham Sherwood, GMRI Demersal Ecologist and CBASS Project Manager. “It will secure at least 10 years of data and give us an unprecedented view of how this critical ecosystem is functioning and changing over time.”
This summer, GMRI’s research team worked to launch the seven major research and outreach components of the project. Team members could regularly be seen fishing from boats, pulling seine nets along the shorelines, and counting fish in rivers leading into the bay. These are all new sampling efforts, and this year is largely about establishing protocols, coordinating with other monitoring organizations, and communicating with the public about the work we are doing.
“We’ve never had a project that unites so many of our researchers under one purpose,” Sherwood said. “Much of our work takes place further out in the Gulf of Maine, and there is a lot excitement about bringing all of our specialties together to really dig into our own backyard.”