Gulf of Maine

The Gulf of Maine (French: Golfe du Maine) is a large gulf of the Atlantic Ocean on the east coast of North America. It is bounded by Cape Cod at the eastern tip of Massachusetts in the southwest and by Cape Sable Island at the southern tip of Nova Scotia in the northeast. The gulf includes the entire coastlines of the U.S. states of New Hampshire and Maine, as well as Massachusetts north of Cape Cod, and the southern and western coastlines of the Canadian provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, respectively.

The gulf was named for the adjoining English colonial Province of Maine, which was in turn likely named by early explorers after the Province of Maine in France.[1] Massachusetts Bay, Penobscot Bay, Passamaquoddy Bay, and the Bay of Fundy are included within the Gulf of Maine system; as such, the Gulf of Maine is also home to the highest tidal variations on the planet (see Bay of Fundy for further information).

Gulf of Maine
French: Golfe du Maine
Major features of the Gulf of Maine
LocationNortheast coast of the United States and southeast coast of Canada
Coordinates43°N 68°W / 43°N 68°WCoordinates: 43°N 68°W / 43°N 68°W
Part ofNorth Atlantic Ocean
River sourcesSaint John River, Penobscot River
Catchment area69,000 square miles (180,000 km2)
Basin countriesUnited States, Canada
Surface area36,000 square miles (93,000 km2)
IslandsMount Desert Island, Fox Islands (North Haven and Vinalhaven), Isle au Haut, Grand Manan
SettlementsBoston, Portsmouth, Portland, Saint John

Geography and hydrography

The Gulf of Maine is a roughly rectangular depression with a surface area of around 36,000 square miles (93,000 km2), enclosed to the west and north by the North American mainland and communicating with the Atlantic Ocean to the southeast. The region's glaciation by the Laurentide Ice Sheet stripped sedimentary soil away from the coastline,[2] leaving a shore that is predominantly rocky and scenic, lacking the sandy beaches found to the south along the Eastern Seaboard. The only significant coastal developments are located in the Boston, Portsmouth, Portland and Saint John metropolitan areas.

The underwater features of the seabed sculptured during the lower sea levels of the ice ages make the gulf a semi-enclosed sea bounded to the south and east by underwater banks. Georges Bank in particular, on its southern end, shelters the gulf from the Gulf Stream. Gulf of Maine waters are more strongly influenced by the Labrador Current, making the gulf waters significantly colder and more nutrient-rich than those found to the south. Undersea valleys in the central basin can reach depths of 1,500 feet (500 m) while undersea mountains rise up 800 feet (266 m) from the sea floor, almost reaching the surface in some locations, or even exceeding it, creating islands.

There are three major basins contained within the Gulf of Maine: Wilkinson Basin to the west, Jordan Basin in the northeast, and Georges Basin in the south, which are isolated from each other beneath the 650 foot (200 m) isobath. Georges Basin, just north of Georges Bank, is the deepest of the three at just over 1200 feet (370 m) and generates a pocket at the end of the Northeast Channel, a deep fissure between Georges Bank and Browns Bank, the southwestern edge of the Nova Scotian Shelf. The Northeast Channel is the major channel between the Gulf and the rest of the Northwest Atlantic. A secondary, shallower connection to the rest of the Atlantic is the Great South Channel, located between Georges Bank and the Nantucket Shoals.


The cold waters, extreme tidal mixing, and diverse bottom of the Gulf make it one of the most productive marine environments in the North Atlantic, and it furnishes habitat for many diverse species including most notably haddock, the Acadian redfish (Sebastes fasciatus), the Atlantic herring (Clupea harengus) and the American lobster (Homarus americanus), which grows to famously large sizes in the Gulf. The waters of the Gulf of Maine system, particularly at the boundary with the Bay of Fundy are also home to the summering grounds for many different bird and whale species, most notably the highly endangered North Atlantic right whale. The gulf was home to the sea mink until its extinction in the late 1800s.

Due to rapid warming of the Gulf of Maine, the water has become too hot for cod. This, along with past overfishing, has helped pushed stocks towards collapse and hampered its recovery despite deep reductions in the number of fish caught, according to a study conducted by the Gulf of Maine Research Institute. Traditional calculations "consistently over-estimated the abundance of cod." From 2004, temperatures rose by more than 0.4 °F (0.2 °C) per year, culminating in an ocean heat wave in the northwest Atlantic in 2012-13.[3]


Wpdms nasa topo gulf of maine
The Gulf of Maine drains a number of states and provinces along the North American coast.

The watershed of the gulf encompasses an area of 69,000 sq mi (180,000 km2), including all of Maine, 70% of New Hampshire, 56% of New Brunswick, 41% of Massachusetts, and 36% of Nova Scotia. The watershed also includes a small southern portion (less than 1%) of the Canadian province of Quebec. Significant rivers that drain into the Gulf include, from east to west, the Annapolis, Shubenacadie, Salmon, Petitcodiac, Saint John, Magaguadavic, St. Croix, Penobscot, Kennebec, Saco, Piscataqua, Merrimack and Charles rivers; the Saint John and Penobscot having the greatest discharge.

History and political significance

Hampton Beach, New Hampshire 2004
Hampton Beach, New Hampshire, in mid-September 2004

The gulf's relative proximity to Europe made it an early destination for European colonization. French settlers founded a settlement on St. Croix Island in 1604. English settlers founded the Popham Colony on an island in the Kennebec River in 1607, the same year as the Jamestown settlement, followed by the Plymouth Colony on the shores of Massachusetts Bay in 1620.

In the 1960s and 1970s there was a dispute between Canada and the United States over fishing and other resource rights in the Gulf of Maine, specifically the Georges Bank region. This dispute was taken to the International Court of Justice, which delineated a maritime boundary through the Gulf in 1984. Canada and the U.S. continue to disagree on the sovereignty of Machias Seal Island and the waters surrounding it in the northeastern part of the gulf. In recognition of the Gulf's importance to marine habitat, both nations currently maintain complementary embargoes against offshore oil and gas exploration activities on Georges Bank in the southern part of the gulf.

See also


  1. ^ "Journal of the Senate" (PDF). State of Maine, HP1629, item 1, 123rd Maine State Legislature. March 6, 2002. Retrieved September 20, 2007. WHEREAS, the State of Maine is named after the Province of Maine in France...
  2. ^ Manahan, Abigail. "A Geologic History of the Gulf of Maine". Gulf of Maine Area Census of Marine Life. Retrieved November 23, 2017.
  3. ^ "Water Too Warm for Cod in U.S. Gulf of Maine, Stock Near Collapse". NBC News. Retrieved 3 November 2015.

External links

Media related to Gulf of Maine at Wikimedia Commons

Baboosic Brook

Baboosic Brook is a 12.7-mile-long (20.4 km) stream located in southern New Hampshire in the United States. It is a tributary of the Souhegan River, which flows to the Merrimack River and ultimately to the Gulf of Maine.

Baboosic Brook begins at the outlet of Baboosic Lake in the town of Amherst, New Hampshire. The brook takes a winding course (east- and southward flow predominating) through the towns of Amherst, Bedford, and Merrimack before ending at the Souhegan River near its outlet to the Merrimack River.

Tributaries include Joe English Brook, Pulpit Brook, McQuade Brook, and Riddle Brook, all entering from the north.

Bear Brook (Suncook River tributary)

Bear Brook is a 10.0-mile-long (16.1 km) stream located in central New Hampshire in the United States. It is a tributary of the Suncook River, part of the Merrimack River (and therefore Gulf of Maine) watershed. Its entire course is within Bear Brook State Park.

Bear Brook begins at the outlet of Hall Mountain Marsh near the four-corner intersection of the towns of Allenstown, Deerfield, Candia, and Hooksett. The brook descends to the north, through Deerfield, then turns west and reenters Allenstown. Nearing Deerfield Road, the brook is impounded by Catamount Pond, with a state park beach and picnic area. The brook flows northwest from the pond and reaches the Suncook River in less than a mile.

Big River (New Hampshire)

The Big River is a 14.9-mile-long (24.0 km) river located in central New Hampshire in the United States. It is a tributary of the Suncook River, part of the Merrimack River (and therefore Gulf of Maine) watershed.

The Big River rises in high ground in the southern corner of Alton, New Hampshire and flows southeast through corners of New Durham and Farmington into Strafford. Running up against the Blue Hills Range, the river reverses course, turning west into Barnstead, where it meets the Suncook River in the village of Center Barnstead.

Black Brook (Merrimack River tributary)

Black Brook is an 11.4-mile-long (18.3 km) stream located in southern New Hampshire in the United States. It is a tributary of the Merrimack River, which flows to the Gulf of Maine.

Black Brook begins at the outlet of Kimball Pond in Dunbarton, New Hampshire. The brook travels southeast into Goffstown and then Manchester, joining the Merrimack just upstream from Amoskeag Falls.

Census of Marine Life

The Census of Marine Life was a 10-year, US $650 million scientific initiative, involving a global network of researchers in more than 80 nations, engaged to assess and explain the diversity, distribution, and abundance of life in the oceans. The world's first comprehensive Census of Marine Life — past, present, and future — was released in 2010 in London. Initially supported by funding from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the project was successful in generating many times that initial investment in additional support and substantially increased the baselines of knowledge in often underexplored ocean realms, as well as engaging over 2,700 different researchers for the first time in a global collaborative community united in a common goal, and has been described as "one of the largest scientific collaborations ever conducted".

Georges Bank

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.

Gunstock Mountain

Gunstock Mountain is the second highest peak in the Belknap Mountains of central New Hampshire with an elevation greater than 2240 feet (683 m). It is located 1 mile (1.6 km) north of Belknap Mountain, the highest point in the range. It is home to the Gunstock Mountain Resort ski area. The ski resort has been written up in national ski magazines for its views of Lake Winnipesaukee.

Gunstock Mountain stands within the watershed of the Merrimack River, which drains into the Gulf of Maine in Massachusetts. The east side of the mountain, on which the ski resorted is located, drains into Poorfarm Brook, thence into Lake Winnipesaukee, the Winnipesaukee River, and the Merrimack. The west side of the mountain drains into the Gunstock River, thence into Lake Winnipesaukee.

List of rivers of Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia's rivers all flow into the Atlantic Ocean through four unique watersheds: the Gulf of Maine, the Northumberland Strait, the Gulf of Saint Lawrence and into the Atlantic Ocean itself.

Little River (Merrimack River tributary)

The Little River is a 12.9-mile-long (20.8 km) river located in New Hampshire and Massachusetts in the United States. It is a tributary of the Merrimack River, part of the Gulf of Maine watershed.

The Little River rises in Kingston, New Hampshire, flows south through Plaistow, and enters the city of Haverhill, Massachusetts, where it joins the Merrimack River. Most of the Little River's course is marked by suburban and urban development.

Machias Bay

Machias Bay is a bay in Washington County, Maine that opens into the Gulf of Maine.

The bay was the scene of the Battle of Machias — the first naval battle of the American Revolution, occasioned by the British need for lumber for Boston.Located at the mouth of the Machias River between the towns of Machiasport, Machias, East Machias, Whiting, and Cutler, it is separated from Little Machias Bay to the east by the Cutler Peninsula, from Little Kennebec Bay to the west by the Point of Maine, and from the Gulf of Maine to the south by Cross Island and the Libby Islands.

The bay extends roughly 7 mi. (12 km) and is 4 mi. (6 km) at its widest.

Machias Seal Island

Machias Seal Island is an island in disputed water between the Gulf of Maine and the Bay of Fundy, about 16 km (10 mi) southeast from Cutler, Maine, United States and 19 km (12 mi) southwest of Southwest Head, Canada on Grand Manan Island. It is a neighbour to North Rock. Sovereignty of the island is disputed. The Canadian Coast Guard continues to staff a lighthouse on the island; the first lighthouse was constructed there in 1832.

Mount Major

Mount Major is a mountain located in Alton, New Hampshire, south of Lake Winnipesaukee and northeast of Straightback Mountain in the Belknap Range.

The scenic, rocky summit is a popular hiking destination, accessible by multiple trails including the Mount Major Trail, the Brook Trail, and the Boulder Loop.

The north, east and south faces of Mount Major drain into Lake Winnipesaukee, thence via the Winnipesaukee River into the Merrimack River and finally into the Gulf of Maine in Massachusetts. The west ridge of Mount Major rises only 186 feet (57 m) feet above the col with the higher Straightback Mountain.

Mount Shaw

Mount Shaw is a mountain located in the towns of Moultonborough and Tuftonboro in Carroll County, New Hampshire, United States. It is part of the remains of an ancient volcanic ring dike. With a summit elevation of 2,990 feet (911 m), it is the highest of the Ossipee Mountains.

The Ossipee ring-dike complex of central New Hampshire is a visible remnant of a Cretaceous stratovolcano, ca. 125 Ma, a member of the later White Mountain igneous province. The complex is circular as viewed on maps and has a diameter of 9 miles (14 km). The ring-dike complex is easy to identify within web-browsed satellite images, the southeast edge located about 5 miles (8 km) northwest of the town center of Ossipee.

Although of only moderate elevation, the isolation of the mountain range gives Shaw 2,330 ft (710 m) of prominence above the low ground separating it from the White Mountains, making it one of twelve peaks in New Hampshire with a prominence over 2,000 feet (610 m).Mount Shaw is located within the Castle in the Clouds estate. Its north and southeast sides drain into the Lovell and Dan Hole rivers, thence into the Ossipee River, Saco River and the Gulf of Maine. The southwest side drains into the Melvin River which flows into Lake Winnipesaukee, thence into the Winnipesaukee River, Merrimack River, and into the Gulf of Maine in Massachusetts.

Mount Willey

Mount Willey is a mountain located in Grafton County, New Hampshire. The mountain is named after Samuel Willey, Jr. (1766–1826) and his family, who in 1825 moved into a house in Crawford Notch. The family was killed a year later in August 1826 during a landslide.

Mount Willey is part of the Willey Range of the White Mountains, of which it is the southernmost and second highest. It, along with Mount Field, forms the western wall of Crawford Notch. The summit is just outside the Crawford Notch State Park; it is at the northeast corner of the Pemigewasset Wilderness.

The north and east faces of Mount Willey drain directly into the Saco River, thence into the Gulf of Maine at Saco, Maine. The south and west sides drain into the North Fork of the Pemigewasset River, thence into the East Branch, the Pemigewasset River, Merrimack River, and into the Gulf of Maine at Newburyport, Massachusetts.

Nissitissit River

The Nissitissit River is a 10.5-mile-long (16.9 km) river located in southern New Hampshire and northern Massachusetts in the United States. It is a tributary of the Nashua River, itself a tributary of the Merrimack River, which flows to the Gulf of Maine. This river is part of the Nashua River Watershed.

The Nissitissit River begins at the outlet of Potanipo Pond in the town of Brookline, New Hampshire. It flows southeast at a very mild gradient, crossing the southwest corner of Hollis, New Hampshire before entering Massachusetts, where it joins the Nashua River in the town of Pepperell.

Sandwich Mountain

Sandwich Mountain (or Sandwich Dome) is a mountain located on the border between Carroll (Town of Sandwich) and Grafton (Town of Waterville Valley) counties, New Hampshire. The mountain is part of the Sandwich Range of the White Mountains.

Sandwich Mountain is flanked to the northeast by Mount Tripyramid, and to the southwest by Mount Weetamoo across Sandwich Notch. Several maintained hiking trails pass over the summit.

The north side of Sandwich Mtn. drains into Drakes Brook, thence into the Mad River, Pemigewasset River, Merrimack River, and thence into the Gulf of Maine at Newburyport, Massachusetts. The west side of Sandwich Mtn. drains into Smarts Brook, thence into the Mad River. The southwest flank of Sandwich Mtn. drains into the Beebe River, thence into the Pemigewasset River. The south side of Sandwich Mtn. drains into the Cold River, Bearcamp River, Ossipee River, and the Saco River, which reaches the Gulf of Maine at Saco, Maine. The east side of Sandwich Mtn. drains into Pond Brook, thence into the Cold River.

Sebasticook River

The Sebasticook River is a 76-mile-long (122 km) river in the central part of Maine, in the United States. From its source (45°03′17″N 69°13′36″W) in Dexter, the upper "Main Stream" section flows generally west and south 30 miles (48 km) to Great Moose Lake. From the outlet of the lake in Hartland, the Sebasticook flows 41 miles (66 km)

south to the Kennebec River in Winslow.

According to the Sebasticook Regional Land Trust:

The Sebasticook River is the largest tributary (985 square miles) to the Kennebec and thus plays an important role in the restoration of both the anadromous and resident aquatic fisheries of the Kennebec basin and the Gulf of Maine ecosystem. Due to its relatively close proximity to the lower Kennebec, large drainage area, and low gradient, this watershed historically contributed a major percentage of available spawning and nursery habitat for anadromous runs of alewife, blueback herring, American shad, rainbow smelt, and striped bass associated with the Kennebec River watershed and Gulf of Maine ecosystems. To a lesser extent, the river provided habitat for Atlantic salmon.

Suncook River

The Suncook River is a 35.7-mile-long (57.5 km) river located in central New Hampshire in the United States. It is a tributary of the Merrimack River, which flows to the Gulf of Maine.

West Branch Souhegan River

The West Branch of the Souhegan River is a 3.1-mile-long (5.0 km) river in southern New Hampshire in the United States. It is a tributary of the Souhegan River, which flows to the Merrimack River and ultimately to the Gulf of Maine.

The West Branch is located entirely in the town of New Ipswich, New Hampshire. It begins at the junction of Fox Brook and Pratt Pond Brook, southwest of the town center, and flows east through the settlement known as Smithville, ending at its junction with the South Branch of the Souhegan River north of Gibson Four Corners.

Arctic Ocean
Atlantic Ocean
Indian Ocean
Pacific Ocean
Southern Ocean
Endorheic basins
Marginal seas of the Atlantic Ocean
Gulf of Maine estuaries
New Brunswick
New Hampshire
Nova Scotia

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