Credit: ©WCS or ©NOAA as labeled


Credit: ©WCS

NEW YORK – June 8, 2022The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) commends the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for starting the designation process of Hudson Canyon as a National Marine Sanctuary.

As the largest submarine canyon by far along the U.S. Atlantic Coast, Hudson Canyon is a fragile, complex, and highly productive marine ecosystem that supports hundreds of species of marine wildlife, from giant and threatened whales and dolphins, sharks, and sea turtles, to soaring seabirds and deep-sea corals, and many other fishes and invertebrates that support local commercial and recreational fisheries. The canyon begins about 100 miles southeast of the Statue of Liberty and stretches for another 350 miles offshore where it plunges down nearly two miles below the ocean surface. The Mid-Atlantic Regional Council on the Ocean (MARCO) has long identified Hudson and other Mid-Atlantic canyons for their ecological importance.

To help protect this ecological treasure, a coalition of partners brought together by WCS recommends that a National Marine Sanctuary designation would close the area permanently to oil, gas, and mineral exploration and extraction while fisheries would continue under existing regulatory authority. In addition, a sanctuary designation would increase federal investment in biological and ecological monitoring – including the impacts of climate change on ocean life and resources.

By designating Hudson Canyon as a National Marine Sanctuary, NOAA would be advancing community-led conservation of important marine wildlife and their habitat, while also providing research and STEM education opportunities. These outcomes, rooted in the principles articulated in the Biden-Harris Administration's “Conserving and Restoring America the Beautiful” report, will benefit diverse stakeholders and residents including underserved and underrepresented communities in New York and New Jersey, and members of the American public more broadly.

If successful, this would be the first national marine sanctuary in New York and New Jersey ocean waters, and the first time that a site nominated by a U.S. aquarium is moving into the designation phase. The WCS NY Aquarium in Coney Island has been raising awareness about this little-known treasure, including through its Hudson Canyon’s Edge exhibit in Ocean Wonders: Sharks!, which provides the public an immersive experience into the wonders of this incredible place. 

The NY Aquarium is working to build a constituency for marine conservation in NY and NJ and the Sanctuary designation process gives aquarium guests, youth leaders, and decision makers, including local, state, tribal and Indigenous leaders, a chance to work collaboratively to protect marine wildlife in our waters.

Said John Calvelli, WCS Executive Vice President for Public Affairs: “This is a once in a generation opportunity to support marine conservation and deepen the connection of the more than 28 million residents in New York and New Jersey to our treasured ocean resources. This nomination highlights the role that aquariums can play to not only educate and inspire, but also help encourage audiences to support actions that advance conservation impact.”

Said Simon Cripps, WCS Executive Director for Marine Conservation: “This is New York and New Jersey’s Grand Canyon – an ecologically rich area with diverse species including sharks, whales and dolphins, deep sea corals, sharks and birds.  It is a natural treasure worthy of designation as a National Marine Sanctuary. We commend NOAA for moving this effort forward and recognizing the importance of this special place.”

NOAA’s announcement triggers a multi-year sanctuary designation process, which gives the public many opportunities for input. The first step is a 60-day comment period where the agency asks the public for information on the scope and issues to be addressed in their resource analysis for the proposed sanctuary, including potential boundaries, management needs, and sanctuary naming.

There are currently 15 sanctuaries in the National Marine Sanctuaries network, from the Olympic Coast to the Florida Keys and Great Lakes. These sanctuaries allow for multiple use: they are managed by NOAA and dedicated to the conservation of unique and valuable ecosystems, cultural and historical resources, balanced against other human activities. All sanctuaries emphasize resource protection and decision-making based on the best available scientific and socioeconomic data.

Said Senator Kirsten Gillibrand: “I am so pleased to see that NOAA has begun the process to designate Hudson Canyon as a National Marine Sanctuary. This designation would be critical to protecting the diverse marine life within Hudson Canyon. I applaud the Wildlife Conservation Society for their tireless advocacy to secure this designation.”

Said Congressman Hakeem Jeffries: “The Hudson Canyon sustains a world-class metropolitan region, a rich maritime history, highly productive fisheries and rich diversity of marine life. It has long been deserving of recognition and protection as a national treasure. I thank NOAA for designating the Canyon as a National Marine Sanctuary as it secures it as a special place for use and enjoyment today while safeguarding an ecological legacy for generations to come. WCS has been instrumental in this effort, and I applaud and thank them for their efforts on behalf of the Hudson Canyon and all New Yorkers.”

Said Assemblyman Steve Englebright, New York State Assembly, Environmental Conservation Chair: “The Hudson Canyon is a New York treasure full of marine life including corals, sharks, whales and fish. I’m excited to see the Biden-Harris Administration advance this community-led effort to protect this important ecological area.”

Said New York City Mayor Eric Adams: “New York City is home to an incredible diversity of marine life right off our shores. By initiating the process to consider designation of Hudson Canyon as the first National Marine Sanctuary in our ocean backyard, we will draw federal research dollars to New York City and advance workforce development in the region. This is an incredible opportunity to provide New Yorkers of diverse backgrounds opportunities to pursue a STEM career pathway in support of ocean health.”

Said New York City Council Speaker Adrienne E. Adams: “Safeguarding the marine wildlife off the shores of New York City is critical to preserving the ecology of our precious ocean waters. The designation of Hudson Canyon as a National Marine Sanctuary will result in increased federal investment and monitoring, boost programming, and support educational and workforce development opportunities for New Yorkers. I applaud NOAA for this significant nomination and look forward to seeing additional conservation measures for Hudson Canyon.”

Said Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso: “On behalf of all Brooklynites, I applaud NOAA for initiating the designation process to make the Hudson Canyon a National Marine Sanctuary. I commend Brooklyn’s own New York Aquarium for their community-led efforts to nominate Hudson Canyon. This is the first time an aquarium has led a sanctuary nomination in U.S. This is an excellent opportunity for schoolchildren and families to connect with the abundance of marine wildlife off Brooklyn’s shores and to help secure this important conservation legacy for future generations.”

Said Kris Sarri, President and CEO, National Marine Sanctuary Foundation: “National marine sanctuaries represent our most iconic and treasured U.S. waters, places to protect unique ecosystems and for people to enjoy. Hudson Canyon in an incredible underwater seascape that holds untold treasures yet to be discovered. As we approach the 50th anniversary of the National Marine Sanctuaries Act, spectacular places like Hudson Canyon deserves protection to conserve biodiversity and its contributions to people.”

Said Adrienne Esposito, Executive Director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment: “Designating the Hudson Canyon as a National Marine Sanctuary would provide a treasured legacy of ocean protection for generations to come.  This marine sanctuary would contribute to preserving the diversity of marine species living off our shores and the ecological stability of our marine environment. Ask any member of the public if they support added protections for whales, dolphins, sea turtles, tuna and other species off our coasts, and you will hear a resounding yes!  The public understands and supports our inherent responsibility to preserve critical ocean resources that we depend upon and that we love.”

Said Kiera Maloney, Offshore Representative, Surfrider Foundation NYC Chapter: “The Hudson Canyon is an incredible geologic feature and habitat for tons of marine life, and it's located right offshore of New York!  We strongly support giving this special area the respect it deserves with a NOAA Sanctuary Designation, while also protecting it from destructive practices such as oil drilling and mineral extraction.”

Said Brynn Heller, NY Aquarium volunteer and Girl Scout Gold Award recipient whose project advocated for the Hudson Canyon National Marine Sanctuary: “As a New York Aquarium Discovery Guide, Girl Scout, and New York City high school student, I am passionate about the designation of the Hudson Canyon as a National Marine Sanctuary.  The Hudson Canyon is biodiverse and impacts all of us. It is essential that the Hudson Canyon be conserved for us and for future generations to research and enjoy. I encourage everyone – especially youth leaders – to help support the creation of the first marine sanctuary in New York waters.”