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Georges Bank (formerly known as St. Georges Bank) is a large elevated area of the sea floor between Cape Cod, Massachusetts (United States), and Cape Sable Island, Nova Scotia (Canada). It separates the Gulf of Maine from the Atlantic Ocean.
The origin of its name is obscure. The 1610 Velasco map, prepared for King James I of England, used the name "S. Georges Banck", a common practice when the name of the English patron saint, St. George, was sprinkled around the English-colonized world. By the 1850s, it was known simply as Georges Bank.
Georges Bank is the most westward of the great Atlantic fishing banks. The now-submerged portions of the North American mainland now comprise the continental shelf running from the Grand Banks of Newfoundland to Georges. Georges Bank was part of the North American mainland as recently as 12,000 years ago.
Roughly oval in shape, Georges Bank measures about 149 miles (240 kilometres) in length by 75 miles (120 kilometres) in width, making it larger than Massachusetts. Located 62 miles (100 kilometres) offshore, Georges Bank is part of the continental shelf. Its depth ranges from several metres to several dozen metres; the entire bank is at least 330 feet (100 m) shallower than the Gulf of Maine to the north.
Gulf of Maine shelf waters are the Bank's primary source. They enter the northern flank, move clockwise around the eastern end, and then westward along the southern flank, mostly emptying into the Mid-Atlantic Bight (the continental shelf ocean between Cape Hatteras and Georges Bank).
Georges Bank, while not having the most productive fishery in the world (the Grand Banks takes this claim), has great prominence in that it is probably the most geographically accessible of all the fishing banks in the North Atlantic. Lying adjacent to New England's famous seaports, Georges Bank is singlehandedly responsible for the development of coastal fisheries in towns such as Gloucester, Massachusetts, and Yarmouth, Nova Scotia.
For over 400 years, Georges Bank supported lucrative fisheries for Atlantic cod and halibut. Over time, bottom trawlers became very efficient, some catching as much cod in an hour as traditional boats caught in a season. Bottom trawlers, however, damaged the sea floor coral and sponge habitats, and federal fisheries regulations aim to control this large scale overfishing to establish future sustainability.
From 1976 to 1982, oil companies drilled ten exploratory wells in the U.S. part of the Georges Bank. None were successful, however, and both Canada and the United States have since imposed moratoriums on oil exploration and production on the Georges Bank, to ensure fisheries conservation.
The decision by Canada and the United States to declare an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of 200 nautical miles (370 km) in the late 1970s led to overlapping EEZ claims on Georges Bank, and resulted in quickly deteriorating relations between fishers from both countries, who respectively asserted claim to the fishery resources. Both nations agreed in 1979 to refer the question of maritime boundary delimitation to the International Court of Justice in The Hague. Following five years of hearings and consultation, the ICJ delivered its decision in 1984, which split the maritime boundary in the Gulf of Maine between both nations out to the 200 nautical miles limit, giving the bulk of Georges Bank to the United States. Canada's portion of the Gulf of Maine now includes the easternmost portion of Georges Bank.
On September 15, 2016, President of the United States Barack Obama proclaimed the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument to protect the area's marine biodiversity. This protected a portion of Georges Bank from fishing and mining. Despite the protection, commercial fishing for deep sea red crab and American lobster is allowed to continue within the monument for a grace period of seven years.
- Woods Hole Science Aquarium
- Marine Conservation Biology Institute: Georges Bank Retrieved 20 January 2009.
- Gary M. Edson and others (2000) Georges Bank Petroleum Exploration, US Minerals Management Service, OCS Report MMS 2000-031, PDF file, retrieved 19 February 2009.
- Giordano, A. C.; Carpenter, G. B.; Amato, R. V. (1983). "Oil and Gas Developments in Atlantic Coastal Plain and Outer Continental Shelf in 1982". AAPG Bulletin. 67 (10): 1566–1569. doi:10.1306/AD46082D-16F7-11D7-8645000102C1865D.
- Morey, James (15 September 2016). "President Designates Atlantic Marine National Monument". Vineyard Gazette. Retrieved 29 September 2016.