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Focus On Fisheries: The Secrets of Stellwagen’s Sand Lance…

“Find the bait, find the fish.” From trout to tuna, the mantra is the same throughout the fishing world. Off the Northeast coast, perhaps no forage fish is more universally snacked upon than the lowly sand lance—two species, Ammodytes americanus and Ammodytes dubius—referred to by anglers as “sand eels.” Where these elongated little fish abound, the ocean comes alive with hungry predators: stripers roving the water column, giant bluefin tuna grazing along the surface, and humpback whales bubble-feeding as shearwaters, terns, and other seabirds circle above.

Despite their apparent central role in the ecosystem, scientists are still learning much about this species, including aspects of its basic biology and factors that can lead to the dramatic year-to-year fluctuations in abundance that anglers are all too familiar with. Researchers at the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary (SBNMS) in Massachusetts, along with numerous scientific partners in the region, are working to change that.


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