Most zooplankton are microscopic, but some larger animals like jellyfish, amphipods, and arrowworms, are also considered zooplankton. Many other marine animals, including lobsters, fish, crabs, barnacles, and oysters, begin their lives as zooplankton. In their larval stage, they look little like their adult forms. Other zooplankton, copepods, for example, spend their entire lives as plankton.
Many bottom-dwelling animals, such as mussels, ocean quahogs and scallops feed on plankton. They, in turn, are eaten by the fish that live on or near the bottom, such as, cod, haddock, hake, and flounder. These are known as groundfish.
Groundfish and herring (young ones are called sardines) usually swim in large schools. Schooling helps to protect fishes from their ocean predators, but it's this characteristic that makes them harvestable by commercial fishermen. Fishermen have been harvesting the Gulf of Maine since before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock. In recent years overfishing of our traditional species has taken its toll. Now, with fewer and fewer groundfish, the most populous species in the Gulf of Maine are dogfish shark and squid. Most of these are sold overseas. Overfishing and coastal pollution that has drifted up to 200 miles from shore now threaten the fish stocks of Georges Bank, once one of the richest fishing areas in the world.
Georges Bank is a relatively shallow area within the Gulf of Maine. It extends northeast off Cape Cod, Massachusetts to about 100 miles southwest of Nova Scotia.
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