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An Examination of Biological Processes of Sand Lance and Associative Species on Stellwagen Bank

Project summary: Working with researchers from Boston University and the Massachusetts Institute for Technology, the biological processes of sand lance on and around Stellwagen Bank is being studied in an effort to understand its role as a possible keystone species in this marine environment. Sand lance are a significant link between the benthic and pelagic habitats of the Gulf of Maine ecosystem and offer a key to understanding large-scale biomass movements.

The first step in studying sand lance was to develop selective gear to sample sand lance in a reliable manner. The most effective method tested was a small mesh beam trawl that consistently caught quantities of sand eels at eight inshore and offshore sampling sites. Since these eels could now be harvested, biological processes such as movement, speed, energy budget, spawning and rearing behaviors, relations to predator and prey species, and use of various habitats are being examined.

This knowledge is important since many varied species such as cod, tuna, skates, whales, seals, and seabirds depend on sand lance as an important food source and their study is likely to reveal significant ecosystem patterns and relationships. Project outcomes will include new empirical knowledge about two species of Gulf of Maine sand lance and the basis for a predictive model of fluctuations in sand lance distribution and abundance. This project was funded by the Northeast Consortium.

Sand Lance

Captain Phil Michaud trawling for Sand Lance off Provincetown

Captain Bill Lee constructing specialized beam trawl

Captain Michaud mending net liner with BU students

Project partners:
Dr. Les Kaufman, Boston University
Clifford Goudey, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Captain Bill Lee, F/V Ocean Reporter
Captain Phil Michaud, F/V Susan C III
Olivia Free, Massachusetts Fishermen's Partnership, Inc.



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