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No fall bloom could mean fewer haddock

The fall 2007 plankton bloom failed to develop on Georges Bank, one of the region’s most productive marine habitats, possibly reducing the amount of haddock in the area, according to NOAA’s spring ecosystem advisory for the Northeast U.S. Continental Shelf.

NOAA also found a long-term warming trend continues in some areas of the shelf, possibly causing the lack of plankton.

The advisories are issued twice yearly, in the spring and fall, by the Northeast Fisheries Science Center’s Office of Marine Ecosystem Studies.

“Despite year-to-year variations, long-term trends in sea surface temperature show that New England shelf waters are warming, and that can have major effects on the marine life on Georges Bank and other areas of the region,” says Kevin Friedland, who coordinates the advisory program.

The fall plankton bloom was of average intensity and magnitude in the Gulf of Maine region, but did not develop on Georges Bank, which is important since phytoplankton fuels the base of the food chain. Friedland said recent research suggests the fall bloom on Georges Bank contributes to the pattern of recruitment of Georges Bank haddock. No fall bloom could mean fewer haddock the following year.

The Middle Atlantic Bight (the area of the U.S. East Coast and continental shelf between Cape Cod, Mass., and Cape Hatteras, N.C.) does not show the same overall warming trend largely because of a continuing trend of cool winter conditions.

To view the advisory, visit

www.nefsc.noaa.gov/omes/OMES/spring2008/advisory.html.

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