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The Boston Globe Visits Cashes Ledge

Categories: Action Alert | Cashes Ledge

If you picked up The Boston Globe on Sunday, you may have noticed this striking photograph of a scuba diver swimming through a lush, colorful kelp forest. The photo might have been familiar to you – it was taken by our friend Brian Skerry on Cashes Ledge, one of the most remarkable places in the Gulf of Maine.

The Globe’s front page article lays out some of the reasons why Cashes Ledge is so important - it says “the frigid waters and glacier-sculpted peaks are home to a billowy kelp forest and an abundant array of life, from multicolored anemones to cod the size of refrigerators,” notes that the ledge has been protected from trawling for over a decade, creating a sanctuary of biodiversity, and acknowledges the importance of Cashes Ledge as a breeding ground for depleted cod.

But the article also points out that Cashes Ledge is at immediate risk. This fall, the New England Fishery Management Council is considering reopening Cashes Ledge to bottom trawling. Its current favored proposal would eliminate protection for three quarters of the current closure and threaten this thriving ecosystem. The Globe asked Brian Skerry what he thought of this proposal, and he couldn’t have been more clear: “Protection must happen now if there is any hope of holding on to what remains.”

We think Cashes Ledge deserves protection. Check out the Globe’s article, and if you agree, please sign our petition asking fisheries managers to maintain full protection for Cashes Ledge and the surrounding areas.

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Brian Skerry’s Photos from the Isles of Shoals – Part 2

Categories: Guest Posters

Here’s another batch of Brian Skerry’s pictures from our recent dive expedition. Brian took these beautiful photographs while diving the Isles of Shoals, a group of nine small islands a few miles off the coast of New Hampshire and Maine. Brian dived alongside Brown University professor Jon Witman, a marine ecologist who has been studying the communities of sea life at Isles of Shoals for decades. On these dives, Jon was particularly interested in studying the density of kelp blanketing the rocky seafloor—but as Brian’s photos show, there’s an incredible diversity of fish and invertebrates there, too.

The photo at the top of this post shows a pair of northern red anemones clinging to a rocky outcropping, highlighting the striking variability in color and pattern they can display.


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This photo shows another type of anemone common in the Gulf of Maine—frilled anemones. These anemones favor areas with a strong current that carries a steady stream of food—copepods, amphipods, and larvae.


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Sand dollars are familiar to most people as pale white circular shells, but live sand dollars are far more colorful. Along with urchins and sea stars, they’re a type of echinoderm—a name that means “spiny skin.”


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This colorful sculpin is nestled among equally vibrant kelp and algae. Sculpin feature spines on their heads and notoriously voracious appetites for bait.

Isle of Shoals, NH
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Brian Skerry’s Photos from the Isles of Shoals – Part 1

Categories: Guest Posters

We’re very happy to show you the first of Brian Skerry’s pictures from our recent dive expeditions. Brian took these beautiful photographs while diving the Isles of Shoals, a group of small islands and ledges a few miles off the coast of New Hampshire and Maine. These islands have a remarkable history as centers of fishing, trading, research, and tourism, stretching from before European settlement to the present day. They’re remarkable beneath the surface, too—the islands harbor rich communities of kelp, fish, and invertebrates, and also host harbor seals and pods of dolphins and whales. Brian’s photos provide an amazing glimpse into life on the seafloor at the Isles of Shoals.

In the photo at the top of this post, a sculpin peers out through shotgun kelp. Shotgun kelp gets its name from its perforated appearance that makes it look like it’s been shot full of holes. This photograph also shows the dense multicolored communities that encrust the seafloor.


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A beautiful northern red anemone stands out brilliantly against the seafloor. These anemones prefer rocky habitat like that found at the Isles of Shoals and at Cashes Ledge.


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A jonah crab lurks among kelp and algae. Jonah crabs are closely related to the Pacific’s famous Dungeness crabs, and have been fished commercially since the 1970s.


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An American lobster shows off its claws. Lobsters comprise about 80 percent of Maine’s fishing revenues, but they’re sensitive to temperature and may be particularly susceptible to the effects of climate change and acidification.

Stay tuned for more pictures to come!

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Celebrating New England’s Oceans on World Oceans Day

This Sunday is World Oceans Day, an international event to celebrate and honor the ocean. This year, volunteers have organized events in locations around the world, from Massachusetts to Mozambique. The message of the day is simple—our oceans are valuable but at risk, and there are easy steps all of us can take to help.

World Oceans Day is a global event, but we thought we’d bring it back home to New England by celebrating the incredible marine habitat in the Gulf of Maine. For the past two weeks, Conservation Law Foundation’s dive team has been exploring some of the amazing places in the Gulf of Maine, from the inshore Isles of Shoals to the incredible Cashes Ledge, 100 miles off the Maine coast.

Cashes Ledge is an underwater mountain range whose steep ridges mix nutrient- and oxygen-rich water, creating a very productive environment. The ledge harbors the largest and deepest kelp forest off the east coast; our divers tell us the kelp on Cashes is so lush and dense it can be tricky to even see the seafloor and navigate along the bottom. To give you an idea of what diving in the kelp looks like, here’s a video from one of the team’s previous trips to Cashes Ledge, taken by videographer Lu Lamar.

The area around Cashes Ledge has been protected for over a decade, but unfortunately, this incredible habitat is now at risk of being opened to commercial trawling. The current proposal under consideration by NOAA and the New England Fishery Management Council would eliminate protection for three quarters of the area around Cashes Ledge. World Oceans Day is a perfect reminder that healthy oceans need healthy habitat, and the incredible ecosystem on Cashes Ledge is worth protecting for good.

You can join in the World Oceans Day festivities by finding an event on the website—there are lots of events in towns across New England, from 5Ks to surfing meet-ups. You can also take a “selfie for the sea”—a photo of yourself doing something for the ocean or making a promise to protect it—and post it with the hashtag #WorldOceansDay. And if you’d like to help protect marine habitat right here in New England,you can help ask NOAA to maintain full protection for the area surrounding Cashes Ledge by signing our petition here.

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Meet Our Dive Team

Categories: CLF Scoop


With our dive team busy exploring Cashes Ledge and other sites in the Gulf of Maine, we thought we’d introduce you to our star-studded team of ocean adventurers!


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Brian Skerry is a renowned underwater photographer praised around the world for his aesthetic sense and evocative scenes. His images tell stories that not only celebrate the mystery and beauty of the sea, but also help bring attention to the threats that endanger our oceans and their inhabitants.

A contributing photographer for National Geographic Magazine since 1998, Brian has covered a wide range of stories, from the harp seal’s struggle to survive in frozen waters to the alarming decrease in the world’s fisheries. His latest book, a 160-photo monograph entitled Ocean Soul, was published in 2011.

Skerry is also a passionate ocean advocate. After three decades of exploring the world’s oceans, the Massachusetts native has returned to the Gulf of Maine to document and protect its exceptional diversity of marine wildlife and habitat.


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Jon Witman is a professor of biology at Brown University. He has studied the ecology of subtidal marine communities for over 30 years, and has conducted research in six of the world’s seven oceans.

Jon led the first ecological study of overfishing in the Gulf of Maine. He has published numerous per-reviewed papers and book chapters on the invertebrate and fish communities that thrive on the rocky seafloor at Cashes Ledge, and he has also studied the internal waves that support primary productivity in the area. He is committed to protecting the ecological and scientific value of this unique marine habitat.

Jon will also be joined on the expedition by his Ph.D. student Robby Lamb.



Evan Kovacs started his filming career in 2003 on the History Channel’s underwater adventure series Deep Sea Detectives.  He has also had an ongoing filming relationship with the Emmy award winning Lonewolf Documentary Group, and recently the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI).

With WHOI’s Advanced Imaging and Visualization Lab, Evan has filmed on the deep submersible ALVIN and the ROV Jason. Currently he is working with the lab to develop the next generation of 3D and 2D cameras and shooting techniques for topside and underwater imaging. Evan has been diving for over 18 years and has dived on shipwrecks, caves and reefs across the world.


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Luis Lamar is a scientific technician with WHOI’s Advanced Imaging and Visualization Lab. He has filmed and photographed marine life around the world, from New Zealand to Micronesia. Lu has assisted Brian Skerry on numerous dive expeditions and has captured video of the kelp forests on Cashes Ledge for Conservation Law Foundation.


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Ken Houtler is the captain of WHOI’s R/V Tioga, a research boat launched in 2004 and designed for day and overnight trips in coastal waters. Ken has led the vessel on countless research expeditions in New England waters, including trips to deploy and recover autonomous oceanographic instruments, to collect data on harmful algal blooms, and to tag endangered North Atlantic right whales.


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Liz Kintzing is the expedition’s dive captain. Liz supervises the academic diving program at the University of New Hampshire’s School of Marine Science and Ocean Engineering, and she also sits on the board of the American Academy of Underwater Sciences. She has been diving with Jon Witman on Cashes Ledge for over 20 years.