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Scenes from The University of Rhode Island

URI Friends of Oceanography Fellowship Recipient to Give Talk about Closed Areas of Georges Bank

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Narragansett, RIóFebruary 25, 2005-- By the early 1990s several of Georges Bankís commercially-important fish stocks were showing signs of decline. In order to foster the recovery of these stocks, in 1994 three large sections of Georges Bank were closed to all types of fishing gear capable of retaining groundfish.

The current state of the closed fishing areas are the topic of a URI Friends of Oceanography lecture entitled The Georges Bank Closed Areas: An Experiment in Ecosystem-Based Management. The speaker will be URI Graduate School of Oceanography student Rebecca Asch. The lecture will take place on Thursday, March 3, at noon in the Coastal Institute Auditorium, URI Bay Campus, South Ferry Road, Narragansett. The lecture is free and open to the public.

While the initial objective of closing the areas on Georges Bank was to decrease fishing mortality, the closed areas eventually became one of New Englandís first de facto experiments with ecosystem-based management of marine resources. By closing these areas to bottom fishing, not only were commercially important species allowed to recover from past overfishing, but non-target organisms were also protected from the indirect effects of fishing. Many of these non-target organisms are important, because they provide food for commercially harvested fish and/or construct habitats used by other types of marine life.

As part of a research program tracking the recovery of benthic invertebrates in one of these closed areas, Rebecca Asch has participated in three research cruises to Georges Bank. In this lecture, she will show pictures from these research cruises and discuss the ecosystem effects of bottom fishing. Topics to be addressed include: 1.) the continuing recovery of non-target species found in the closed area; 2.) the formation of microhabitats that provide refuge for a variety of benthic organisms, and; 3.) the recent discovery of an invasive, sea squirt species that poses a new threat to the integrity of the Georges Bank ecosystem.

Currently a resident of Warwick, Rebecca Asch grew up in Marlboro, Massachusetts. After receiving a B.A. in cultural anthropology from Smith College, Rebecca spent two years working at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in Silver Spring, MD, where she became involved in a program aimed at developing a national network to monitor the condition of coral reefs. She entered URIís Graduate School of Oceanography (GSO) as a M.S. candidate in the fall of 2002. Under the guidance of Professor Jeremy Collie, Rebecca has been studying microhabitat associations between benthic megafauna, colonial epifauna, and demersal fishes on northeastern Georges Bank.

For more information about this lecture, call 874-6642,