GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

October 3, 2012

UMass chief eyes work at local marine lab

By Richard Gaines
Staff Writer

---- — President Robert I. Caret Tuesday led a bus tour of the big and little campuses of the University of Massachusetts system into Gloucester, up Washington Street to one of the system’s very smallest assets — the global leading Large Pelagic Research Center in Bay View at scenic Hodgkins Cove.

The bus tour, the second Caret has taken since he became president of the 71,000 state university system last year, began at the University of Lowell, where, on Monday night, Sen. Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren, his Democratic challenger, debated for an hour.

“We wanted to go places we haven’t gone on the first bus tour,” said Caret after a briefing by Molly Lutcavage, director of the research center which studies the world’s great ocean swimmers — from tuna to leatherback turtles.

“There is no limit to where they can go,” Lutcavage said of her center’s subjects, showing a slide on the wall of the research center which began as the office for the Cape Ann Granite Co. after the Civil War, and later was a lobster pool before its conversion into a research center for seafood during the tenure of the late UMass scientist and Rockport resident Herb Hultin.

Caret; Henry M. Thomas II, chairman of the UMass Board of Trustees; Steve Goodwin, dean of the College of Natural Sciences; and Mike Armstrong, program manager for the state Division of Marine Fisheries’ field station in Gloucester, were met with a sense of urgency by state Sen. Bruce Tarr, and Rep. Ann-Margaret Ferrante over a potentially promising scientific supplement to the stock assessments undertaken by the NOAA Science Center.

The Legislature has appropriated $1.2 million for the use of sonar as a supplement to the trawl surveys which are processed through a complex formula.

Tarr and Ferrante cited the trusting relationship that Lutcavage has forged with the recreational and commercial fishing industry to advance the scientific knowledge of giant bluefin tuna and other larger pelagics, and said they hoped the university could host the research into the viability of stocks that NOAA science has concluded are not recovering at the expected place.

“We are known in our field since 1993, trying to change the paradigm; we are not separate from but linked to recreational and commercial fishermen,” said Lutcavage. “We need a commitment from someone to do the project.”

Goodwin said there would be UMass and program help here in Gloucester.

“We’ve been approaching it too piece-meal,” said President Caret. “It’s time to pull it all together.

Tarr and Ferrante emphasized in an interview later Tuesday that there are many questions to be answered about the sonar technology before it can be fitted into the NOAA stock assessment system, but said they were encouraged by the university’s open mind. The tour moves to the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth today, where the School of Marine Science and Technology is the university’s largest and most influential campus in marine sciences.

Any application of the sonar technology would involve input from UMass-Dartmouth.

Caret was elected president of the five-campus university system in early 2011. Raised in Maine, he said he grew up fishing for pleasure. He came back to New England after successful tenures at Towson University and then San Jose State University.

Mayor Carolyn Kirk also attended to welcome the UMass contingent, and noted that “Gloucester is a marine campus.”

“What are our assets as a city? The future of the city is planet ocean, not planet earth,” she said. “That’s the reinvention of Gloucester. We’re really excited.”

Richard Gaines can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3464, or at rgaines@gloucestertimes.com.