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The Making and Unmaking of a National Marine Sanctuary

Peter Borrelli

Publication Year: 2009

The Gerry E. Studds Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary is located at the mouth of Massachusetts Bay, only twenty-five miles east of Boston. The area's nutrient-rich waters attract a cornucopia of sea life--which in turn supports both recreational and commercial fisheries, along with a lucrative whale-watching industry. Peter Borrelli, who served on the sanctuary's federally appointed advisory council for more than ten years, provides an insider's view of the problems of managing a chronically under-funded marine preserve that is often of two minds about its mission. This is a sobering and well-considered examination of what happens when well-intentioned legislation meets the reality of trying to protect an extremely delicate and intensely popular ecosystem.

Published by: University Press of New England

Front Cover

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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-ix

Rachel Carson once observed that, “The human race is challenged more than ever before to demonstrate our mastery—not over nature but of ourselves.” Fifty years later, it is clear that we have failed to meet that challenge with respect to the marine environment. Our oceans are in trouble. Evidence...

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pp. xi-xii

The idea for this book first came to me shortly after the untimely death of Gerry E. Studds in 2006. Studds was what we like to call today an Ocean Hero. The former Massachusetts congressman was on the forefront of marine conservation throughout his career, no more so than when he championed...

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pp. xiii-xviii

This is the story of a twenty-five-year-long effort to protect a biologically productive marine area in Massachusetts Bay known as Stellwagen Bank. But first a word of caution. To paraphrase the old saw about the making of laws and sausage, those interested in the marine environment and the greater public...

Part I: Discovery

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1: Middle Bank

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pp. 3-9

While Massachusetts Bay may not seem like a particularly treacherous body of water when viewed from an airplane window or ferry, the rocky, island-studded entrance to Boston Harbor is tricky to navigate in a boat even...

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2: A Special Place

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pp. 10-17

In terms of its accessibility by small craft, Stellwagen Bank, or Middle Bank, as it was called before the Coast Survey of 1854 and is still called by some fishermen today, should be thought of as a near-offshore location. It has been recognized as an important fishing ground for a varied array of...

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3: Designation

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pp. 18-27

By 1988, proponents of marine sanctuary status for Stellwagen Bank were growing impatient with the politics and process of designation. But they were not alone. Since the passage of the National Marine Sanctuaries Act (NMSA) in 1972, only five sanctuaries had been...

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4: If Not Wilderness, What?

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pp. 28-37

The growing demand for natural resources on Stellwagen Bank in the 1980s was only a sampling of the problems of growth that built rapidly after World War II. In his highly popular book, The Quiet Crisis, Stewart Udall, who served as Secretary of the Interior under Presidents Kennedy and...

Part II: An Inauspicious Beginning, 1992-2007

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5: An Ocean Runs Through It

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pp. 41-50

In 2001, the National Marine Sanctuary Program (NMSP) developed a monitoring program to assess the condition of its thirteen sanctuaries. While the program acknowledges that “each area has its own concerns and requirements for environmental monitoring,” it argues that the “the...

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6: Business as Usual

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pp. 51-61

While some in Congress may have envisioned national marine sanctuaries as the marine equivalents of parks, refuges, or wilderness areas, early proponents of Stellwagen Bank becoming a sanctuary were almost unanimous in their belief that recreational and commercial...

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7: Whales Ho!

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pp. 62-73

To the casual observer aboard a whale-watch vessel or ferry gazing over the blue-green water under a clear sky with the towers of Boston or the Provincetown Monument barely visible on the horizon, Stellwagen Bank may seem like paradise. That is, if you are not a whale....

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8: The Accidental Hunt

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pp. 74-85

While Congress in 1972 may have been unsure about the purposes and goals of national marine sanctuaries, it had a clear sense of what the American people wanted when it came to the protection of whales. To this day, the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) stands...

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9: Ecotourism Unlimited

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pp. 86-98

Each year, approximately one million people from throughout the United States and around the world visit the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary for the sole purpose of seeing these majestic creatures. The vast majority are transported by commercial whale-watch...

Part III: Starting Over

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10: Purposes and Policies Revisited

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pp. 101-110

No unkindness is intended by the observation that if the act creating the Gerry E. Studds Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary were repealed by Congress tomorrow, the area would be no more vulnerable to disturbance and ruin than it has been for the past fifteen years....

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11: The Plan

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pp. 111-121

In the opening scene of Samuel Beckett’s famous play Waiting for Godot, a tramp by the name of Estragon is sitting in a wasteland beneath a dying tree trying to remove his boot. He continues to struggle throughout much of the first act while chattering gibberish with his companion...

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12: Potential Actions

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pp. 122-132

Public reaction to the NOAA Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary draft management plan continued to run negative from all quarters throughout the summer of 2008. Those hoping for a decisive plan of action that, at the very least, would halt the deterioration...

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13: Vision and Goals

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pp. 133-145

Compatible with what? This is a question the sanctuary has been asking itself since its creation. Congress did not provide much guidance when it comes to determining what activities are compatible with Stellwagen Bank’s sanctuary status, a criticism that applies to one extent...


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pp. 147-201


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pp. 203-225


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pp. 227-234


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pp. 235-238

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9781584658764
E-ISBN-10: 1584658762
Print-ISBN-13: 9781584657149

Page Count: 262
Publication Year: 2009