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    PORTLAND, Maine

    Zooplankton decline reported in North Atlantic

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    The microscopic creatures that make up a critical link in the ocean food chain declined dramatically the first half of this year in the North Atlantic, as ocean temperatures remained among the warmest on record, federal scientists say. Springtime plankton blooms off the coast of northern New England were well below average this year, leading to the lowest levels ever seen for the tiny organisms that are essential to maintaining balance in the ocean food chain, said Kevin Friedland, a marine scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The absence of the normal surge of plankton in the spring is a concern because that is when cod and haddock and many other species produce offspring, Friedland said.