Overview of the Cobscook Bibliography


The Gulf of Maine ranks among the world's most productive and rich marine ecosystems. Many of the Gulf's most remarkable examples of dynamic physical processes, species richness and nature's abundance are concentrated in the northern Gulf of Maine around the mouth of the Bay of Fundy. The region contains North America's only boreal, macrotidal estuaries which include some of the least impacted estuaries in the United States. Cobscook Bay, in extreme eastern Maine, is a preeminent example of such an estuary.

Cobscook Bay is a hydrographically and geologically complex estuary where very high levels of biodiversity and productivity are manifest. Cobscook Bay is at once unique and representative. It is the ideal focus for ecosystem research directed at understanding our vital and valuable boreal estuaries and embayments.

Compiling The Bibliography

Several excellent environmental bibliographies already exist which include material on Cobscook Bay and the Quoddy region. Among these are the State of the Bay published by the Bay of Fundy Project (a joint initiative of the Conservation Council of New Brunswick and the Huntsman Marine Science Centre), the Bay of Fundy Environmental and Tidal Power Bibliography (Plant, 1985), the Ecological Characterization of the Coast of Maine (Fefer and Shettig, 1980) and several smaller, more specialized bibliographies.

The one previous attempt to compile information on Cobscook Bay specifically was done by TRIGOM over twenty years ago (Shenton and Horton, 1972). All of these are very useful, but are dated or otherwise limited in scope of subject matter or geography. We, therefore, set out to compile specific information to benefit researchers and others concerned with the marine ecosystem of Cobscook Bay and to present it in an accessible format that can be constantly updated. We want the result to be a living and growing document.

Documents for inclusion in this bibliography were located by searching the bibliographies mentioned above, through the various computer bibliographic databases available at the Bigelow Laboratory Library and the Maine State Library, by interviewing environmental researchers and managers in the United States and Canada and by examining the literature cited sections of found documents. Document types include published papers, books, conference proceedings, technical reports, court papers, theses, dissertations, students reports, data files, checklists, maps, aerial photographs and satellite images.


The geographic scope includes the entire Quoddy region. This is because there is a relatively little information on Cobscook Bay proper while a great deal of quality research has been done along neighboring shores due largely to the presence of the Biological Station and the Huntsman Marine Laboratory in St. Andrews, New Brunswick. For purposes of this bibliography the Quoddy region is defined as the region between Cutler, Maine and Point Lepreau, New Brunswick and from the Grand Manan archipelago and The Wolves (Fig. 1). A quick look at a map or chart will demonstrate that there are important differences between Cobscook Bay and the rest of the Quoddy region. Nevertheless, the region is interrelated in terms of tides, climate, biogeographic affinities, culture, fisheries and environmental threats.

A document was selected for inclusion if it contained specific information on the Quoddy region which individuals with a focus on Cobscook Bay would want to know. All studies with sampling sites in the region are included. General studies of resident species are not included unless at least part of the work addresses the species distribution or ecology within the region.

The Bibliography

A computerized reference database is the principle product of this continuing exercise. A companion product, a hard copy, is available for review purposes and for access by persons without computer facilities. References include standard bibliographic information plus an abstract, introduction or descriptive notes. Locations or contact persons for data files of hard to find documents are included where appropriate. The software used is EndNote Plus by Niles and Associates, Inc which is available in MacIntosh and DOS versions. This program allows for easy transfer of files between computer platforms. EndNote has very powerful search capabilities making it unnecessary to divide the bibliography into overlapping sections by discipline. Keywords have been added to further assure complete recovery of references in given subject areas.

A master copy of the bibliography will be maintained by The Nature Conservancy (TNC) at its Maine Chapter office in Brunswick (Fort Andros, 14 Maine St., Suite 401, Brunswick, ME 04011, 207/729-5181 or by e-mail: or ). Users are encouraged to send additional appropriate references to TNC for inclusion during periodic updates. Through such cooperation the bibliography can be maintained in a complete and up-to-date form.

A Brief History Of Scientific Research
In And Around Cobscook Bay

In light of decreasing numbers of commercial fishes in eastern United States, Congress, in 1871, directed the President to appoint a Commissioner of Fish and Fisheries "to prosecute the necessary inquiries, with the view of ascertaining whether any and, if so, what diminution in the number of food-fishes of the coasts and lakes of the United States had taken place; and to determine what were the causes of the same, and to suggest any measures that might serve to remedy the evil." It would seem that the situation in the Quoddy region was very serious indeed for, after setting up headquarters in Woods Hole and investigating Vineyard Sound during the summer of 1871, Commissioner Baird and multidisciplinary team of America's most eminent scientist next turned their attention eastward.

In 1872, they chose Eastport as the headquarters from which to prosecute their second year of inquiries. This effort marks the first serious U.S. scientific investigation on the Cobscook area. It established the species richness of the region and resulted in the description of many species new to science.

Thus, the immediate stimulus for scientific research in Cobscook Bay was a response to political interest generated by the destruction of valuable marine resources. As it turned out, the causal agent of the destruction was the damming of rivers and streams by the timber industry. This blocked anadromous fish migration and spawning and removed the major food source for the cod population. Clearly, ecosystem responses to human disturbance have a long history in Cobscook Bay. Until recently, the potential damage of human engineering projects has been the principle driving force behind environmental research activity in Cobscook Bay and the Quoddy region as a whole.

The nineteenth century cod fish decimation, Passamaquoddy tidal power, the proposed Pittston oil refinery in Eastport, the Fundy tidal power proposals and the advent of large scale salmon culture have all resulted in flurries of directed field and literature investigations. Analysis of publications in the bibliography by date, geography and subject matter reinforces this interpretation.

The scientific interest in the Quoddy region expressed by scientists in the United States and Canada in the late nineteenth century, largely in response to the depletion of fisheries, led to the establishment of Biological Station at St. Andrews at the turn of the century, first as a field station and then as a year-round laboratory. A moderate production of documents related to the region's fauna, flora, and fisheries was generated from St. Andrews during the first decades of the twentieth century (Fig. 2).

Productivity declined during the war years then increased markedly from the fifties through the eighties. This proliferation of titles was first fueled by renewed interest in the bilateral Passamaquoddy tidal power project. This was followed by intense activity in the 1970's related to plans by the Pittston Company to build an oil refinery in Cobscook Bay. From the late 1970's to the mid-1980's another large energy proposal, Fundy tidal power, resulted in arguably the highest level of research effort ever to occur in the Northern Gulf of Maine. The very nature of the effect of Fundy tidal power development on one of the defining characteristics of the Gulf, i.e. the tides, produced thought and analysis on the ecosystem level. Although ecological/environmental research activity appears to have slackened in the last decade, questions regarding fish culture and its environmental effects have assured that a moderate amount of research continues to the present.

Areas Of Interest And Geographic Focus

The influence of practical concerns in setting the research agenda in the Quoddy region, and especially in Cobscook Bay, is evident in the review of the subject matter of the resulting publications (Fig. 3). The two largest categories, Finfish and Invertebrates, which include 45% of the 600 plus entries in the present bibliography, contain numerous publications on commercial finfisheries and shellfisheries, respectively. The applied documents on tidal power, oil, and aquaculture account for a third of the remaining publications. It is significant that many, if not the majority, of the publications grouped under the headings of Birds, Mammals and Oceanography are the direct result of work related to the assessments of the environmental impacts of the major engineering proposals. The same can, to a lesser extent, be said of the Finfish and Invertebrate categories.

Investigation of hydrography, water chemistry, and fisheries were prominent during field studies related to Passamaquoddy tidal power. Marine mammals were a significant issue during the Pittston oil refinery evaluation and shorebirds, tidal flats and their resident invertebrate prey were concerns during the Fundy tidal power investigations. One major exception to the above generalization seems to be the basic life history studies of large zooplanktonic species by Corey and her students which appear to have a more academic origin.

Analysis of the principle geographic focus of the publications included in this bibliography reveals limited research directed at Cobscook Bay (Fig. 4). Much of the material that is specific to Cobscook Bay is the gray literature, that is unpublished agency reports, student papers, court papers, etc. which have received limited or no review. Tidal power and the Pittston oil refinery are recurring themes. Much more information is available from Passamaquoddy Bay and the St. Croix estuary due in large part to activities at the St. Andrews Biological Station and the Huntsman Marine Laboratory. Many of these publications represent high quality scientific research and are available in scientific journals. Although there are certain differences between Cobscook and Passamaquoddy Bay in terms of size and, geographical complexity and hydrography, these publications will prove to be valuable resource to Cobscook researchers.

Given these factors, the environmental information available on the Quoddy region, and especially Cobscook Bay, is uneven in terms of how current it is, how geographically focused it is and how inclusive it is of key subjects and disciplines. Most of the older work is through but qualitative. Good information exists on life histories and energetics of shorebirds, larger zooplankton and marine mammals for the region as a whole, but not for Cobscook Bay. Historical data on fisheries of Passamaquoddy Bay, Grand Manan and the mouth of the Bay of Fundy is probably as good as any place on the east coast. Abundant oceanographic data, collected for both tidal power and fisheries investigations, exist especially for the more offshore regions. Some of this information should be of value in the construction of computer models.

Cobscook Bay has been especially underrepresented in terms of basic scientific information needed for proper evaluation of its past or present functioning, condition, resource harvest capacity and management needs. Recent multi-party research, conducted as the Cobscook Bay Marine Ecosystem Research Project, begins to address these concerns, providing information on most major ecosystem components. However, until this base of research has been significantly advanced, it will remain difficult to predict how human or natural activities may affect the health of Cobscook Bay.

Peter Foster Larsen, Ph.D.
Senior Scientist
Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences
P.O. Box 475
West Boothbay Harbor, ME 04575


The successful completion of a project of this scope is a testament to the contributions of many people and organizations. Over 50 active scientists, research librarians and environmental managers took time to share their Quoddy experience and personal literature files with us. Without them this document would not exist. Special thanks go to Inka Milewski of the Huntsman Marine Science Center and John Field of NOAA for making available their extensive and recent environmental bibliographies, John Sowles of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection provided us with sources of unpublished State documents, and Bigelow Laboratory Librarian Pam Shepard offered advice and support during the entire process.

Several people and many members of the potential user community contributed by reviewing drafts of the bibliography for content, structure and ease of use. We thank them and point out that remaining errors and omissions are the responsibility of the authors.

I personally wish to acknowledge Ruth Webb, my coauthor, for her cheerful, perpetual motion and Susan Caldwell of The Nature Conservancy for her tenacity and thoroughness during the tedious task of bringing the bibliography from draft to a usable product.

Finally, I would like to express particular gratitude to Barbara Vickery whose foresight, dedication and contagious enthusiasm have been the driving force in this effort, among many others, to advance understanding and appreciation of Maine's natural environments.

Peter Foster Larsen, Ph.D.



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