In May 2006, the NOAA National Ocean Service (NOS), in conjunction with the EPA National Health and Environmental Effects Laboratory (NHEERL), conducted an assessment of the status of ecological condition of soft-bottom habitat and overlying waters throughout the mid-Atlantic Bight (MAB) portion of the eastern U.S. continental shelf. The study area encompassed the region from Cape Cod, MA and Nantucket Shoals in the northeast to Cape Hatteras in the south, and was defined using a one nautical mile buffer of the shoreline extended seaward to the shelf break (~100-m depth contour). A total of 50 stations were targeted for sampling using standard methods and indicators applied in prior NOAA coastal studies and EPA’s Environmental Monitoring and Assessment Program (EMAP) and National Coastal Assessment (NCA). A key feature adopted from these studies was the incorporation of a random probabilistic sampling design. Such a design provides a basis for making unbiased statistical estimates of the spatial extent of ecological condition relative to various measured indicators and corresponding thresholds of concern. Indicators included multiple measures of water quality, sediment quality, and biological condition (benthic fauna). Through coordination with the NOAA Fisheries Service/Northeast Fisheries Science Center (NFS/NEFSC), samples of summer flounder (Paralichthys dentatus) also were obtained from 30 winter 2007 bottom-trawl survey stations in overlapping portions of the study area and used for analysis of chemical-contaminant body burdens.
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