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Alert Diver is the dive industry’s leading publication. Featuring DAN’s core content of dive safety, research, education and medical information, each issue is a must-read reference, archived and shared by passionate scuba enthusiasts. In addition, Alert Diver showcases fascinating dive destinations and marine environmental topics through images from the world’s greatest underwater photographers and stories from the most experienced and eloquent dive journalists in the business.


DIVE SLATE CASHES LEDGE CASHES LEDGE THE YELLOWSTONE OF THE NORTH ATLANTIC Text by Evan Kovacs | Photos by Brett Seymour Cashes Ledge is an underwater mountain range located 100 miles offshore of New England and notable for its dense populations of kelp, lobster and other marine organisms. Off the coast of New England, 80 miles from Cape Ann, Mass., lies an anomaly. An ecosystem that is unexpected, beautiful and unrivaled in the North Atlantic exists there — it would seem less out of place in the Caribbean or amid the kelp forests of the West Coast. Fisheries biologists and fishermen have long been aware of its existence because the rich ecosystem serves as a nursery for many species of fish, most notably North Atlantic cod. It is one of the few places on the East Coast considered by scientists to be unique, flourishing and in need of permanent protection. Dubbed “the Yellowstone of the North Atlantic” and designated a Hope Spot by Sylvia Earle, the underwater mountain range called Cashes Ledge is a place that should be on everyone’s radar, both as a one-of-a-kind dive spot and, I hope, the first Marine National Monument in the Atlantic. Several years ago my friend Luis Lamar, a cinematographer, came back from an expedition with National Geographic photographer Brian Skerry to document an underwater mountain range in New England that very few people knew existed. Lamar spoke of mesmerizing kelp, caves filled with lobster, and schools of fish unlike anything we had seen in the area before. He spoke softly and eloquently, almost reverently, about Cashes. The trip had been sponsored by the Conservation Law Foundation (CLF), which seeks to photograph and protect unique and beautiful places around New England. Fortunately for me more trips were in the works, and they wanted to expand the underwater efforts to include high-resolution 4K video. Getting to Cashes Ledge is an adventure unto itself. Diving nearly 100 miles off shore from relatively small boats can be a challenge and not suitable for those with delicate stomachs. Fortunately for our dive team, Priscilla Brooks, CLF’s vice president and director of ocean conservation, had chartered the RV Tioga from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and it made a wonderful dive platform. Most important, it cruised at 20 | SUMMER 2016

16 knots, which allowed the team to sneak in dives whenever an appropriate weather window presented itself, which was not very often. South of Newfoundland’s Grand Banks and still susceptible to many of the weather patterns that can create very dangerous conditions (remember The Perfect Storm?), we spent many days waiting. Over three years of diving, we made it out on only six of the approximately 30 potential days and were rarely out for more than a single overnight at a time. But in the many hours of sitting at the dock or in a quaint little home in York Harbor, Maine, I met and listened to a passionate coastal biologist who has become the heart and soul of Cashes Ledge: Brown University biology professor Jon Witman, Ph.D. Cashes Ledge would likely be little more than a name on the charts if not for Witman. He and his team began diving and studying the biodiversity GRAND CAYMAN: SEVEN MILE BEACH Lighthouse Point Oceanfront Condos / Divetech Unlimited Shore Diving Free Beverages at Check-In $1,190 pp/qd GRAND CAYMAN: EAST END Compass Point Dive Resort Ocean Frontiers Car Rental Included* Breakfast Daily $1,250 pp/qd or $1,510 pp/db GRAND CAYMAN: WEST BAY Cobalt Coast Dive Resort Reef Divers Breakfast and Dinner Daily Use of Dive Computer $1,405 pp/db CAYMAN BRAC Cayman Brac Beach Resort Reef Divers All Meals • Cocktail Reception $1,325 pp/db there in the 1980s, and what they found astounded them. They likened it to a time capsule from the 17 th century — the cod were often as big as divers and were more plentiful there than anywhere else they had studied — as plentiful as in some of the early Pilgrim settlement accounts. Compared with other coastal regions in the 1980s, Cashes Ledge was an outlier, in a good way, and word soon got out. By the late 1990s destructive fishing practices had devastated the area, and fish populations were collapsing. Laudably, the New England Fishery Management Council (NEFMC) imposed a ban on the most detrimental practices — bottom trawling and dredging — though it left the area open to others such as midwater trawling. With the ban in place, the populations have slowly started to rebound. Hearing Witman tell stories about Cashes Ledge in the ’80s — when schools of cod, pollock, cunner and other fish could be seen with myriad sharks, whales and other pelagics among the kelp — was both poetic and disheartening. He had the privilege of studying Cashes in its modern heyday, and he helplessly watched its subsequent destruction to the brink of collapse. Now he is documenting and quantifying its recovery with the help of CLF. The recovery, however, is not guaranteed; the ledge could be opened to all fishing and other exploitative activities at any time. CLF’s mission was clear: They wanted to showcase the underwater world through imagery to reveal the magic of the ledge today and its potential for tomorrow. Diving Cashes Ledge had been built up so much in my mind by Lamar, Skerry, Brooks and Witman that I was afraid it might be a letdown, like so many underwater places are these days. But it was a surreal dream of swaying kelp, playful cod, schools of pollock skirting the edge of vision and scenes of life I could barely have imagined. My eyes never left the camera Contact your local dive shop or Caradonna Dive Adventures to book today! 800-328-2288 All packages include 7 nights, 6 days of 2-tank boat dives (unless otherwise noted), airport transfers, taxes and service charges. *Rental pickup at airport, no transfers. Rates are per person, double or quad occupancy as noted and subject to availability and standard terms and conditions. Valid for select dates in 2016. CSOT#2111993-40 • WSOT#603254369 • FSOT#38781 Elly Wray ALERTDIVER.COM | 21

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