Gulf of Maine Facts:
The Gulf of Maine is a semi-enclosed sea that covers 36,000 square miles of ocean, and runs along 7,500 miles of coastline, from Nova Scotia, Canada to Cape Cod, Massachusetts. The Gulf of Maine is bordered by 3 New England states (Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine) and 2 Canadian provinces (New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.) The Gulf of Maine is bounded to the east by 2 underwater banks - Georges Bank, jutting out from Cape Cod, and Browns Bank, off the coast of Canada.
Water depths in the Gulf of Maine range from 0 feet to several hundred feet. The deepest spot in the Gulf of Maine is 1,200 feet and is found in Georges Basin (Source.) There are many dramatic underwater features in the Gulf of Maine, which were carved out by glaciers 10,000 to 20,000 years ago.
How the Gulf of Maine Formed:
The Gulf of Maine was once dry land, covered by the Laurentide Ice Sheet, which advanced from Canada and covered much of New England and the Gulf of Maine about 20,000 years ago. At this time, sea level was about 300-400 feet below its current level (Source: Stellwagen Bank site, and USGS Site). The weight of the ice sheet depressed the Earth's crust beneath the Gulf of Maine to below sea level, and as the glacier retreated, the Gulf of Maine filled in with seawater.
Types of Habitat in the Gulf of Maine:
- Sandy banks (such as Stellwagen Bank and Georges Bank)
- Rocky ledges (such as Jeffreys Ledge)
- Deeper channels (e.g., the Northeast Channel and Great South Channel)
- deep basins with water depths over 600 feet (e.g., Jordan, Wilkinson and Georges Basins)
- Coastal habitats near the shore, which can feature bottoms composed of rocks and boulders, gravel and sand.
Tides in the Gulf of Maine:
Marine Life in the Gulf of Maine:
The Gulf of Maine supports over 3,000 species of marine life (click here to see species lists). Types of marine life include:
- About 20 species of whales and dolphins
- Fish, including Atlantic cod, bluefin tuna, ocean sunfish, basking sharks, thresher sharks, mako sharks haddock, flounder
- Marine invertebrates such as lobsters, crabs, sea stars, brittle stars
- Marine algae, such as kelp, sea lettuce, wrack and Irish moss
- Plankton, which provide food for many larger species in the Gulf of Maine. One important species is the copepod.
Threats to the Gulf of Maine:
Threats to the Gulf of Maine include overfishing, habitat loss and coastal development.
Human Uses of the Gulf of Maine:
The Gulf of Maine is an important area, both historically and currently, for commercial and recreational fishing. It is also popular for recreational activities such as boating, wildlife watching (e.g., whale watching), and scuba diving (although the waters are chilly for some!)
- Gulf of Maine Council on the Marine Environment. About the Gulf. Accessed September 26, 2011.
- Gulf of Maine Research Institute. Undersea Landscapes. Accessed September 26, 2011.
- Maine Geological Survey. An Underwater View of the Gulf of Maine Sea Floor. Accessed September 26, 2011.
- Manahan, A. A Geologic History of the Gulf of Maine. Accessed September 26, 2011.
- NOAA. Ecology of the Northeast U.S. Continental Shelf. Accessed September 26, 2011.
- Marine Species Registers for the Northwest North Atlantic Ocean. Accessed September 26, 2011.
- Oldale, R. Geologic Origins of Stellwagen Bank. Accessed September 26, 2011.