Fishing Grounds of the Gulf of Maine


Paralleling the northeastern coast line of North America lies a long chain of fishing banks--a series of plateaus and ridges rising from the ocean bed to make comparatively shallow soundings. From very early times these grounds have been known to and visited by the adventurers of the nations of western Europe--Northman, Breton, Basque, Portuguese, Spaniard, Frenchman, and Englishman. For centuries these fishing areas have played a large part in feeding the nations bordering upon the Western Ocean, and the development of their resources has been a great factor in the exploration of the New World.

According to statistics collected by the Bureau of Fisheries.[2] these banks annually produce over 400,000,000 pounds of fishery products, which are landed in the United States; and, according to O. E. Sette,[3] annually about 1,000,000,000 pounds of cod are taken on these banks and landed in the United States, Canada, Newfoundland, France, and Portugal.

Apparently the earliest known and certainly the most extensive of these is the Great Bank of Newfoundland, so named from time immemorial. From the Flemish Cap, in 44 deg. 06' west longitude and 47 deg. north latitude, marking the easternmost point of this great area, extends the Grand Bank westward and southwestward over about 600 miles of length. Thence, other grounds continue the chain, passing along through the Green Bank, St. Peters Bank, Western Bank (made up of several more or less connected grounds, such as Misaine Bank, Banquereau, The Gully, and Sable Island Bank); thence southwest through Emerald Bank, Sambro, Roseway, La Have, Seal Island Ground, Browns Bank, and Georges Bank with its southwestern extension of Nantucket Shoals.

To all these is added the long shelving area extending from the coast out to the edge of the continental plateau and stretching from the South Shoal off Nantucket to New York, making in all, from the eastern part of the Grand Bank to New York Bay, a distance of about 2,000 miles, an almost continuous extent of most productive fishing ground.

Within the bowl that is the Gulf of Maine, the outer margin of which is made by the shoaling of the water over the Seal Island Grounds, Browns Bank, and Georges Bank, this chain is further extended by another series of smaller grounds, as Grand Manan Bank, the German Bank, Jeffreys Bank, Cashes Bank, Platts Bank, Jeffreys Ledge, Fippenies Bank, Stellwagen or Middle Bank; and again, lying inside these, this fishing area is increased by a very large number of smaller grounds and fishing spots located within a very short distance of the mainland.

All these banks are breeding places of the most valued of our food fishes--the cod, haddock, cusk, hake, pollock, and halibut--and each in its proper season furnishes fishing ground where are taken many other important species of migratory and pelagic food fishes as well as those named here. It is probable that no other fishing area equaling this in size or in productivity exists anywhere else in the world, and the figures of the total catch taken from it must show an enormous poundage and a most imposing sum representing the value of its fishery.

With the most distant of these grounds we shall not deal here, leaving them for later consideration when noting certain of the fishery operations most characteristic of them. Thus, we may treat of those well-defined areas that lie within or are adjacent to the Gulf of Maine, such as the Bay of Fundy, the Inner Grounds (those close to the mainland), the Outer Grounds (those within the gulf), the Georges area, Seal Island Grounds, and Browns Bank, these forming the outer margin of the gulf; and also make mention of certain others of those nearer offshore banks that are most closely connected with the market fishery of the three principal fishing ports within the Gulf of Maine.

[Footnote 1: First published as Appendix III to the Report of the US Commissioner of Fisheries for 1929. Bureau of Fisheries Doc# 1059. Submitted for publication Jan 18,1929.]
[Footnote 2: U.S. Bureau of Fisheries Statistical Bulletin No. 703]
[Footnote 3: U.S. Bureau of Fisheries Document No. 1034]