August 14, 2015


Led by Dr. Sylvia Earle, the Mission Blue team recently returned from a Hope Spot Expedition to Cashes Ledge, a pristine biological hotspot off the coast of New England. It contains Ammen Rock, a peak so tall that it disrupts the Gulf of Maine current, creating massive upwellings of cold nutrient-rich water that fuels an explosion of life from plankton and squid to mackerel, tunas, billfish, sharks, seabirds and a high diversity of marine mammals. The area is home to the largest cold water kelp forest on the Atlantic seaboard and provides a nursery for important New England fish species like cod, pollock, Atlantic halibut, and white hake. Check out the map for a better sense where the Cashes Ledge is located.

Dr. Earle at Cashes Ledge, August 2015
Dr. Earle at Cashes Ledge, August 2015. Photo: Kip Evans

Through the expedition, Dr. Earle and Mission Blue Director of Expeditions Kip Evans are working to amplify the efforts of Conservation Law Foundation (CLF), Mission Blue and other environmental organizations in calling for permanent full protection of Cashes Ledge. She has also declared Cashes Ledge and the New England Canyons and Seamounts 150 miles off Cape Cod “Hope Spots,” critical marine habitats that, if fully protected, can help return the ocean to a healthy state. Filmmaker Robert Nixon (Gorillas in the Mist, Mission Blue) was on hand to document this conservation-oriented expedition for his new documentary, Blue Centennial. Local Martha’s Vineyard fisherman Captain Buddy Vanderhoop was also there to lend support for the permanent protection of Cashes Ledge and other important areas in New England’s ocean.

“Cashes Ledge is the Yellowstone of the North Atlantic,” said Dr. Earle after returning from the dive. “It is a unique formation, an underwater extension of the mountains of Acadia National Park. It’s a place known only to fishermen – and an amazing gathering of fish and other wildlife – until recent years when divers and scientists have explored and documented the nature of this glorious, golden forest.”

Early in the 20th century, actions were taken to begin protecting extraordinary natural, cultural and historic places – a network of parks and monuments across the United States landscape that has been called the “best idea America ever had.” Now, early in the 21st century, there is an opportunity to embrace comparable underwater treasures within the nation’s Exclusive Economic Zone, an area more than twice the size of the land.

Vibrant Marine Life at Cashes Ledge

“Diving on Cashes Ledge was an experience of a lifetime, in a lifetime of amazing underwater experiences,” continued Earle. “I saw for myself what scientists have been raving about for years – a miraculous mountain peak that comes close enough to sunlight to be crowned with a thriving forest of kelp and a richly diverse assemblage of coastal marine life in the open sea. Permanent full protection for Cashes Ledge and the deep sea canyons and seamounts of New England will be a good for the fish, for fishermen, for the ocean and for all of humankind.”

Red Cod swim through healthy kelp forest with cunner at Cashes Ledge; 70-miles off the coast of Maine
Red Cod swim through healthy kelp forest at Cashes Ledge.

In April, the New England Fishery Management Council (NEFMC) voted to continue temporary prohibitions on fishing for cod and other groundfish, but the area could be re-opened by the Council in the future to industrial fishing. Want to help ensure the continued conservation of Cashes Ledge? You can add your voice to this petition created by by our partners at the Conservation Law Foundation. Many thanks also to our partners at National Geographic, Google and the National Resources Defense Council for making this expedition a reality.


7 thoughts on “Cashes Ledge: the Gem of New England

  1. If human life ceased to exist the oceans would flourish, if ocean life ceases to exist so do we, the answer is so simple. Protect, care, nourish, love, this is our home, no other species poops in its own nest like humans, we are a clever species but let\’s be smart!!

  2. As one of the scientists who had the great privelage of exploring and diving Cashes Ledge over 25 years ago and experiencing a bounty of pollock and cod first hand, I only hope that it has retained its vibrant diversity and abundance that we saw back in the day when the National Undersea Research Program existed to support such groundbreaking, regionally important research. Hoping your efforts succeed in protecting this unique area.

  3. The health of our oceans is essential to the balance of Earth\’s natural environment, our water and air affect human populations and ecosystems. By protecting critical marine habitats such as Cashes Ledge, we are preserving life in the ocean as well as contributing to the sustainability of people and nature.

  4. Please continue to provide protection to Cashes Ledge as a conservation zone. We live in a time when so much of the ocean is polluted or overfished, we need to have these sanctuaries to help make up.

  5. Let\’s not be redundant. Commercial fishing should be postpone indefinitely. More regulations on the oil industry. Enough damage in the ocean has been done already. It seems that we are not getting it.
    Greed is a way of life in America.

  6. It is imperative to protect this area as a conservation zone to aid in North Atlantic health.

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