Georges Bank is a large
elevated area of the sea floor which separates the Gulf of Maine from the Atlantic Ocean and is situated between Cape
Cod, Massachusetts (USA) and Cape Sable Island, Nova
The origin of its name is obscure. The Velasco map in 1610 prepared
for King James I of England used the name 'S. Georges Banck'; a
common practice where the English patron saint St George's name was
sprinkled around the English colonized world. By the 1850s it was
known as simply as Georges Bank.
Georges Bank is oval shaped and measures approximately 149 miles
(240 kilometres) in length by 75 miles (120 kilometres) in width,
making it larger in area than the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
Located 62 miles (100 kilometres) offshore, Georges Bank is part of
the continental shelf
the Wisconsin Glaciation
actually part of the North American
mainland. Now submerged, its depths range from several metres to
several dozen metres, placing almost the entire bank fully 330 feet
(100 m) (or more) shallower than the Gulf of Maine to the
Bank is the most westward of the great Atlantic fishing banks -
those now-submerged portions of the North American mainland which
now comprise the continental shelf running from the Grand Banks of
Newfoundland to Georges.
Gulf of Maine shelf waters are the Bank's primary source.
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).
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 single-handedly responsible for the
development of coastal fisheries in towns such as Gloucester, Massachusetts and Yarmouth, Nova
For over 400 years, Georges Bank supported lucrative fisheries for
. Over time, bottom trawlers
became very efficient, some
catching as much cod in an hour as traditional boats caught in a
season. Bottom trawlers also damaged the sea floor coral
Current federal fisheries regulations aim to bring about recovery
from this large scale overfishing
establish future sustainability.
From 1976 though 1982, oil companies drilled ten exploratory wells
in the US part of the Georges Bank. None were successful.
Canada and the United States have since agreed to a moratorium on oil
exploration and production on the Georges Bank, to ensure fisheries
The decision by Canada and the United States to declare an Exclusive Economic Zone
(EEZ) of 200
(370 km) in the
late 1970s led to overlapping EEZ claims on Georges Bank and
resulted in quickly deteriorating relations between fishermen from
both countries who claimed the fishery resources for each
respective nation. Both nations agreed in 1979 to refer the
question of maritime boundary
delimitation to the International Court of Justice at The
Hague in The Netherlands.
Following five years of hearings and
consultation, the IJC delivered its decision in 1984, which split
the maritime boundary in the Gulf of Maine between both nations out
to the 200 NM 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.