Fisheries Habitat Investigations

Marine species harvested by commercial and recreational fisheries require habitat to grow and reproduce. The fishing community and other stakeholders have identified several inshore habitats of interest, including coastal lagoons and estuaries around Cape Cod.

Pleasant Bay is a coastal lagoon system featuring diverse habitats and separated from the North Atlantic Ocean by a barrier beach. Surrounded by 70 km of coastline, its watershed includes the towns of Orleans, Chatham, Harwich and Brewster. From 2014-2017, CCS scientists conducted an inventory of shellfish and finfish in the Bay, with a focus on commercially and recreationally important species. This comprehensive inventory indicated that Pleasant Bay is home to a diverse assemblage of marine animals, many of which utilize the Bay as spawning or nursery habitat.

Left: juvenile lobster; Right: juvenile winter flounder

This research is supported by the Friends of Pleasant Bay and has set the stage for long-term monitoring to detect changes in the system, as well as focused studies on specific ecosystem indicators, such as the presence of tropical fish via a collaboration with the Gulf Stream Orphan Project.

Left: CCS volunteer Dana Grieco conducting quadrat surveys for shellfish; Right: research vessel Shackleton, used for trawl and dredge surveys


Plankton sampling site at East Harbor, Truro, MA

Further north along Cape Cod, CCS scientists and their colleagues at the National Park Service (NPS) and Antioch University have begun a study of the shellfish community in the East Harbor lagoon, a tidal restoration site in the Cape Cod National Seashore. Of particular interest is the role of East Harbor’s shellfish populations as a supply of planktonic larvae to adjacent waters where they are harvested.