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.
Captain Phil Michaud trawling for Sand Lance off Provincetown
Captain Bill Lee constructing specialized beam trawl
Captain Michaud mending net liner with BU students
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.