New York Seascape

The 16,000 square miles of ocean from Montauk, New York, to Cape May, New Jersey, are an ecological treasure trove, providing critical migration routes for globally threatened animals, including sea turtles, whales, and sharks, as well as nursery grounds and critical habitat for hundreds of species.


These are among the busiest waters in the world, with over 22 million people along the coastline, plus shipping, energy development, and commercial and recreational fishing.

Our Goal

Ensure a safe place for marine wildlife among the many competing human activities. To get there, WCS's New York Seascape Program seeks to restore healthy populations of target species, protect key offshore and nearshore habitats in the Mid-Atlantic, and inspire a local ocean ethic and a vocal marine conservation constituency.

How Will We Get There?

Our specific strategies include:

Why WCS?

13,000 expressions of support

In 2015, the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council protected 38,000 square miles of deep sea coral habitat in the Mid-Atlantic from destructive fishing practices—this includes in the Hudson Canyon and 14 other submarine canyons. This conservation outcome was made possible through collaboration among fishery managers, the fishing industry, marine scientists, and the environmental community. WCS generated more than 13,000 letters, drawings, pledge walls, and petition signatures in support of the Deep Sea Coral Amendment.

27 acoustic tags

Our local research includes equipping 27 sand tiger sharks with acoustic tags between 2012 and 2015. These have led to the identification of important nursery grounds for this depleted and protected species.

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Photo Credit: Julie Larsen Maher © WCS

What's at Stake?

These waters boast extraordinary habitats whose protection is critical to the maintenance of biodiversity, including highly productive estuaries, deep sea canyons, vast sandy continental shelf, and soaring seamounts farther offshore whose underwater majesty rival that of the American West. There are relatively few marine protected areas in the New York Bight, no areas that are fully protected, and no National Marine Sanctuaries.

338 species

The New York Seascape is home to more than 338 species of marine fishes, including more than 40 species of sharks and rays. In addition at least seven whales, four sea turtles, and many marine species ply these busy waters.

On Our Strategies

Conduct Field Research

We are working to understand the migratory movements and habitat use of key species in the seascape. This includes acoustic and satellite tagging of four species of sharks, year-round acoustic monitoring of whales, and tagging to monitor the abundance and movements of American eels in the Bronx River.

Information generated from these studies is being used to inform regional ocean planning and secure management measures to improve the conservation status of these depleted and threatened species. Citizen science projects like the Great Eggcase Hunt (in partnership with the Shark Trust of the UK) and eel mop monitoring are being used to reconnect New Yorkers to the ocean and nature, grow science literacy, and help build a constituency of vocal advocates for marine wildlife in local waters.

Advance Comprehensive Ocean Planning and Help Develop a Mid-Atlantic Ocean Action Plan

This includes using science to identify important ecological areas for protection and developing key indicators to monitor ocean health. Successful development of a plan for the Mid-Atlantic requires widespread stakeholder engagement and public support, which we are helping to build.

Secure Additional Protection for the Hudson Canyon

We seek to secure additional protection for the Hudson Canyon, the largest submarine canyon along the U.S. Atlantic Coast, which provides important habitat to hundreds of species including fishes, marine mammals, turtles, sea birds, and invertebrates, including deep sea corals.

Inspire a Local Ocean Ethic

New York City is a city of islands and the region has long been dependent on the ocean for food, jobs, commerce, and pleasure. Yet New Yorkers are not the most active and engaged marine conservation constituency.

Critical to our success in restoring and protecting local marine wildlife and habitats is the need to build greater awareness and inspire stewardship of our local ocean. A number of diverse initiatives are underway to expand the ocean conservation dialogue to new audiences:

Read more:
WCS North America


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