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Third Edition Expands on 75 Years of NOAA Fisheries Science

The Third Edition of the classic reference "Fishes of the Gulf of Maine," has been published by Smithsonian Institution Press, NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service announced today. The new edition has expanded text and includes new species information gathered over the last 50 years by NOAA Fisheries scientists and other contributors.

Three prominent figures in marine science will form a panel to announce the publication noon June 27 in the Zenger Room of the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

"This is a major scientific and scholarly achievement," said Bill Hogarth, director of NOAA Fisheries, an agency of the Commerce Department's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. "The new "Fishes of the Gulf of Maine" demonstrates the value of long-term scientific data collection as well as the agency's seminal contributions to making the Gulf of Maine one of the world's best-known ecological systems."

The Gulf of Maine is one of the most thoroughly studied and best understood ecological systems, due in large part to studies conducted by scientists at the NOAA's Northeast Fisheries Science Center.

The third edition of "Fishes of the Gulf of Maine" was revised by 38 authors under the editorship of Bruce B. Collette and Grace Klein MacPhee. Seventeen of the authors and Collette, the senior editor, are present or former NOAA Fisheries scientists. Other contributors are drawn from academia, private and public museums and marine-research institutions.

Collette, who will be on the panel Thursday at the National Press Club, is an internationally known expert in the systematics of fishes, particularly mackerels and tunas. He has published more than 100 scientific papers, and in 1989 received the first award has ever given by the American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists for an outstanding body of work.

The new edition contains information for 252 species representing 118 families, about one-third more species than in the original edition, and outlines the seasonal and annual migration of species in and out of the gulf. The volume summarizes information from more than 3,800 references, averaging 36 per page, in a simple and highly useable format.

Much of the information in the expanded text was derived from bottom-trawl surveys of the Gulf of Maine and adjacent waters conducted every year since the early 1960s by NOAA Fisheries. The editors refer to this survey as "perhaps the best marine biodiversity database available anywhere."

The bottom trawl survey provides four important types of information about fish species in the Gulf of Maine, including data on the distribution and abundance of fish populations, food habits of Gulf of Maine fishes, predator-prey relationships and trends in fish growth and age-at-sexual-maturity. In addition, NOAA Fisheries scientists conducted a 10-year comprehensive fishery ecosystem study off the Northeast. That study yielded a collection of fish eggs and larvae data that provided a baseline picture of spawning times and locations.

With the increase in scientific information, the volume is an improved resource for a broad audience including fishermen and the general public interested in fishes of the gulf. It remains, as the original authors intended, "a handbook for the easy identification of the fishes of the Gulf of Maine, with summaries of what is known of the distribution, relative abundance, and more significant facts in the life history of each."

The first edition of the work, published by NOAA Fisheries' predecessor agency (Bureau of Fisheries) in 1925, included what was then known about the biology and ecology of 178 fish species in 83 families. The second edition, published by the federal fisheries agency in 1953, described 219 species and 108 families.

The first edition of "Fishes of the Gulf of Maine" resulted from field work conducted during the early part of the 20th Century by Henry B. Bigelow, professor at the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University, and first director of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and colleagues with support from NOAA Fisheries and the MCZ. The book was co-authored with W. W. Welsh. The book was revised by Bigelow and William C. Schroeder and issued in its second edition in 1953.

NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service is dedicated to protecting and preserving our nation's living marine resources through scientific research, management, enforcement, and the conservation of marine mammals and other protected marine species and their habitat.

To learn more about NOAA Fisheries, please visit