Creatures of the Canyon

Hundreds of species rely on Hudson Canyon, from giant and threatened whales and dolphins, sharks, and sea turtles, to soaring seabirds and deep-sea corals. There are also numerous species important to fisheries, including tilefish, squid, crabs, flounder, and tunas. Meet the creatures of the canyon. All would benefit from the canyon being named a National Marine Sanctuary, as has been proposed.


Shortfin mako shark

Isurus oxyrinchus

The shortfin mako is one of the fastest species of shark with top speeds of 45 miles per hour. This makes them a popular target for recreational and commercial fishermen in the northwest Atlantic, but the population is at an all-time low due to overfishing. There is currently a two-year ban on capturing shortfin makos in the North Atlantic, but more must be done to ensure this species can recover.

Photo Credit: ©Steve De Neef
Photo Credit: Julie Larsen © WCS

Loggerhead sea turtle

Caretta caretta

Loggerhead turtles are named for their exceptionally large head which supports powerful jaw muscles that enable them to feed on hard-shelled prey. Though loggerheads are the most abundant species of sea turtle found in U.S. coastal waters, populations have declined due to bycatch in fishing gear such as trawls, gillnets, and longlines.

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Sperm whale

Physeter macrocephalus

These massive creatures are the largest toothed predators on earth. Sperm whales are known for their unique body shape, with a huge head containing the largest brain of any living animal, and for their ability to dive to incredible depths in search of prey. They hunt for food during deep dives that regularly reach depths of 2,000 feet. They are capable of diving to depths of over 10,000 feet for over 60 minutes.

Photo Credit: ©NOAA
Photo Credit: ©NOAA

Bluefin Tuna

Thunnus thynnus

The bluefin tuna is the largest tuna species (up to 13 feet and 2000 pounds). This highly migratory fish found migrate across the entire North Atlantic Ocean. Bluefin is a popular target of commercial and recreational fishing around the Canyon, which has led to significant declines in bluefin tuna off our coast.

Deepwater octopus

Graneledone verrucosa

Octopods, also known as octopuses, are a group of highly intelligent, eight-armed cephalopods found in oceans around the world. They are known for their remarkable abilities to change color and shape to camouflage themselves, escape predators, or communicate with other octopods.

Photo Credit: © Image courtesy of NOAA Ocean Exploration, 2021 ROV Shakedown
Photo Credit: ©NOAA

Deepwater octocoral

Anthomastus sp.

Deep-sea corals are defined as corals that live at depths greater than 50 meters, but most species live in depths several hundred meters deep, in cold, dark, rocky habitats, often far from shore. Deep-sea corals, like their warm-water cousins, are actually colonies of small animals that build a common skeleton, which grow into many shapes and colors. They are slow growing and long-lived – some can be thousands of years old – and are therefore very fragile and easily damaged by some fishing gear.


Summer flounder

Paralichthys dentatus

This highly prized flatfish common in local estuaries spends winter out at the edge of the continental shelf, where spawning takes place, peaking in late fall and continuing through the winter. Well camouflaged along the sandy bottom, they ambush passing prey.

Photo Credit: ©NOAA
Photo Credit: Julie Larsen © WCS

Black Sea Bass

Centropristis striata

Black sea bass are another commercially and recreationally important species that winters out on the continental shelf. They're protogynous hermaphrodites, meaning they are born female and at some point in their lifespan change sex to male. Sex changes occur over the winter while they are out around the Canyon.

Golden tilefish (year-round resident)

Lopholatilus chamaeleonticeps

These iconic, year-round Hudson Canyon residents are deep-water, shelter-seeking fish uniquely known for their horizontal and vertical burrows in the clay and silt substrates in and around submarine canyons. Growing to over a meter in length and to up to 50 years old, tilefish are important habitat modifiers, integral to the unique ecology of the area as their burrows also provide habitat for other fish and crustacean species in Hudson Canyon.

Photo Credit: ©NOAA
Photo Credit: ©Mark Olsen/Unsplash

Atlantic puffin

Fratercula arctica

Though these seabirds spend summer further north, mainly breeding in Maine and Canada, they spend their winters entirely at sea—and might even come to the Hudson Canyon in these months, highlighting how different species rely on this important habitat at different times of the year. The rich biodiversity of the Canyon habitats attracts all kinds of marine life, bringing in visitors to feed.

Blue whale

Balaenoptera musculus

The largest creature known to ever exist on the planet. Though rare, some blue whales have been recorded moving along the shelf edge in winter months. Limited sightings data from NYSERDA surveys and passive acoustics have documented these massive visitors. They’re rare here but that’s true just about anywhere.

Photo Credit: ©NOAA
Photo Credit: ©Wayne Hoggard/NOAA/NMFS/SEFSC

Risso’s dolphin

Grampus griseus

Risso’s dolphins are a poorly known yet fascinating species and are one of the larger members of the dolphin family. Though easily distinguishable from other dolphins due to the grey and white scarring on their bodies, don't let their tough exterior fool you - these playful creatures are known for their acrobatic leaps and curious nature.

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