Island in the Stream: Oceanography and Fisheries of the Charleston Bump



Downstream from the Florida Straits depicted by Hemingway, the Gulf Stream flow is disrupted by a shoaling island of high-relief bottom topography on the relatively flat Blake Plateau. On this “Charleston Bump” the metaphor of many hills and broken country aptly describes the dynamics of the sea floor topography and its effects on sea circulation in the western North Atlantic. Fishes often prefer “badlands” such as rough bottom topography and turbulent oceanic fronts, and the Charleston Bump provides an array of such habitats. Although first alluded to in the nineteenth century, the Charleston Bump came into prominence late in the twentieth century when concern for overfishing of swordfish, bycatch of nontargeted fishes, sea turtles and other organisms, and conflicts between recreational and commercial fishing in the region brought the Bump to the attention of the public, and re-ignited interest among fisheries scientists and oceanographers. As fishermen and the public became aware of, and interested in, the role of the Charleston Bump in the life history of fishes and in fisheries of the southeast, it became apparent that there was a need for review and synthesis of historical and new data to determine what constitutes the Charleston Bump, what effect it has on oceanic and coastal circulation, and what role it plays in the life history of marine organisms.