Advancing an Ecosystem Approach in the Gulf of Maine

Seafloor Mapping for Ecosystem Management in the Gulf of Maine

Jonathan H. Grabowski and Tracy Hart


Abstract .—The Gulf of Maine’s seafloor provides a wide array of valuable ecosystem services, including provision of habitat for commercially and ecologically important mammals, seabirds, fish, and invertebrates. Implementing ecosystem-based management will require improved information about the habitats of economically and ecologically important species and the impacts of different human activities, such as fish harvesting, offshore energy development, and shipping, to balance these competing needs. Currently, there is limited high resolution seabed substrate information in the Gulf of Maine, especially in the U.S. portion, because of the high cost of multi-beam echo sounder surveys. Moreover, this lack of coverage limits the ability of managers to use seafloor substrate information in ecosystem management activities, such as fisheries management, that require more holistic coverage of the bioregion. Therefore, the potential need for seafloor mapping in this region is enormous given the value of accurate seafloor information to managers in charge of minimizing impacts to and sustaining the ecosystem services provided by benthic habitat in the Gulf of Maine.