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The Gulf of Maine has long been considered to be among the most productive fishing areas on the planet. The historical fishery for Atlantic cod was so profitable and landings so great that it quickly became New England’s most important colonial industry. Though heavily fished, the Gulf continued to produce impressively until cod stocks collapsed along the eastern 400 km of New England’s coastal shelf in the 1990s. Twenty years later, cod stocks have still not recovered and show few signs of recovery. Cod were not the only depleted species along that coast. So many species of groundfish disappeared from the area that the entire eastern coastal shelf has reverted to a crustacean-dominated ecosystem. What factors contributed to this paradigm shift and is it possible that the fish-dominated ecosystem can be restored? Historical fishermen’s knowledge and period scientific data provided sufficient information about cod and other gadids to determine their distribution, population structure and movements. Insights into changes occurring as species diversity declined and relationships among competitors and prey species became obvious. Evaluation of predator-prey dynamics and the processes associated with depletion give provocative clues about what factors had triggered the collapse of cod and discovery of opportunities that could enhance their recovery.
Ted Ames is a founding board member and senior advisor of Penobscot East Resource Center, anexternal Graduate Faculty Member at University of Maine, Orono and visiting research scientist at Bowdoin. Captain Ames fished commercially for 28 years. He was formerlyVice-Chair of Maine Department of Marine Resources Hatchery Technology Committee, Executive Director of the Maine Gillnetters Association and director of Alden-Ames Lab, an environmental and analytical laboratory. Ames is the recipient of a 2005 MacArthur Award, 2007 Geddes W. Simpson Distinguished Lecturer at the University of Maine and Bowdoin’s visiting Coastal Studies Scholar in 2010-11. He has authored several peer-reviewed articles on historical fisheries ecology, fishermen’s ecological knowledge and related subjects. His current research explores the ecological connection between marine and riverine ecosystems. Ted lives in Stonington, ME with his wife and daughter.