Date of Award


Level of Access Assigned by Author

Campus-Only Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Marine Biology


Gayle B. Zydlewski

Second Committee Member

Teresa R. Johnson

Third Committee Member

Paul Anderson


A dearth of data exists on finfish in highly dynamic environments around the world. Their harsh environmental conditions make sampling them dangerous and expensive. As a result, the finfish assemblages of such environments are typically inferred, rather than specifically investigated. An opportunity arose to sample Cobscook Bay, one such environment, in connection with the development and testing of in-stream tidal power technology. Though the physical environment, primary producers, and invertebrate assemblage of Cobscook Bay are well-characterized, no contemporary information exists on its finfish assemblage. From 2011-2013 we examined the composition, diversity, structure and temporal changes in the finfish assemblage of Cobscook Bay. Sampling occurred in May, June, August and September of 2011, 2012 and 2013 in subtidal and intertidal habitats with seines, fyke nets, and benthic and pelagic trawls. This was a collaborative research effort with fishermen from the local community. Fishermen assisted with the sampling, ensured that methods were properly suited to the local environment, and helped evaluate the results.

During the study, over 60,000 individual finfish from 46 species were collected. Significant differences in diversity were observed at diel, monthly, and annual timescales in the subtidal and intertidal assemblages. These assemblages were similar among the areas of the bay that were sampled: Inner, Central, and Outer Bays. The size, distribution, condition, and abundance of five abundant species was analyzed: threespine stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus), Atlantic herring (Clupea harengus), winter flounder (Pseudopleuronectes americanus), rainbow smelt (Osmerus mordax), and alewife (Alosapseudoharengus). The weight-length relationships of all species but alewife varied significantly among years. Attention was paid to finfish collected in 2012, as temperatures throughout the Gulf of Maine achieved record highs that year. The median length of Atlantic herring captured in 2012 was significantly different from the median length of those captured in 2011 and 2013.

Both scientists and fishermen felt the collaborative project was successful. The scientists incorporated the experience-based knowledge of fishermen into their study. Fishermen valued the scientists’ transparency and the openness of the project. Scientists provided participants with the information they needed to understand and evaluate the science, and they made it clear how fishermen’s input was used. Boundary work facilitated the translation of information between fishermen and scientists, and was essential for the mitigation of conflicts that arose during the collaboration.

Although this case is not the first successful partnership between scientists and fishermen, it adds to a growing body of work that calls for the inclusion of non-scientific expertise in research. Furthermore, the collaborative research created a robust baseline dataset on the finfish community of Cobscook Bay. Such data are important for serving as a benchmark for comparisons and furthering our understanding of how finfish assemblages may change in dynamic environments.


Master of Science in Marine Policy