April 21, 2022

Gillibrand Urges For NOAA To Designate Hudson Canyon As A National Marine Sanctuary

U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand sent a letter to Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere & NOAA Administrator Dr. Richard Spinrad calling for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to designate the Hudson Canyon in the New York Bight as a National Marine Sanctuary (NMS).

The Hudson Canyon, located offshore about 100 miles southeast of the Statue of Liberty, is the largest canyon off the Atlantic Coast of the United States, one of the largest submarine canyons in the world that is home to various species of sea life. The proposed sanctuary would encompass an ecologically rich area near one of the U.S.’s most populated coastlines; protecting deep sea corals, marine mammals, fishes, marine turtles, and seabirds, as well as for species important fisheries like squid, crabs and tunas; and would be the first NMS designation in deep waters off the Mid-Atlantic Coast.

Under an NMS designation, the Hudson Canyon will receive increased funding from the FY22 Omnibus for environmental protection for an important and ecologically rich stretch of biosphere in New York ocean waters, closing the area permanently to oil, gas and mineral exploration and extraction.

“The marine waters off the coast of New York and New Jersey sustain a world-class metropolitan region, a rich maritime history, highly productive fisheries and a rich diversity of marine life, thus deserving recognition and protection as a national treasure,” said the letter. “An NMS off our coast will provide a special place for use and enjoyment today, while securing an ecological legacy for generations to come. I encourage you to consider initiating the public process for designation of Hudson Canyon as a National Marine Sanctuary. This is a once in a generation opportunity for NOAA to deepen the connection of 20 million New Yorkers to our treasured ocean resources.”

NMS designation also allows for tapping into offshore wind energy sources in an ecologically responsible manner that won’t cause harm to the state’s oceanic ecosphere. It will also provide increased federal investment in ecological research as well as STEM education programs that creates a career pathway programs jobs in those industries.

Senator Gillibrand’s request is part of her continual commitment to protect the state’s environment, having introduced the NY-NJ Watershed Protection Act back in January, legislation that would safeguard and restore the New York-New Jersey Watershed. The bill would address threats from climate change, legacy pollution, and untreated wastewater.

Read the full letter below:

Dear Dr. Spinrad,

I am writing to express my support for the National Marine Sanctuary (NMS) nomination to protect the Hudson Canyon in the New York Bight.  I was pleased to see the increased funding and report language in the FY22 Omnibus for the National Marine Sanctuaries Program.  As you consider how to fulfill the Congressional directive, I encourage you to initiate the public-facing, stakeholder-driven designation process for the Hudson Canyon Sanctuary nomination. 

By initiating a designation process, NOAA will help advance 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 from underserved and underrepresented communities in New York and members of the American public more broadly.

The proposed Sanctuary, located offshore about 100 miles southeast of the Statue of Liberty, would encompass an ecologically rich area near one of the U.S.’s most populated coastlines and would be the first NMS designation in deep waters off the Mid-Atlantic Coast. The Hudson Canyon is the largest submarine canyon off the Atlantic Coast of the U.S. and one of the largest in the world. The grand scale and complex structure of the Canyon make it an ecological hotspot for a vast array of marine wildlife including corals, sharks and other fishes, whales, and sea birds. The robust biodiversity of the Canyon directly supports our regional marine-based economy by providing productive waters and habitats for the fish and invertebrates that our commercial and recreational fisheries depend on.

Because of the emphasis on community and stakeholder driven management in the National Marine Sanctuaries Act, designation of the Hudson Canyon as a NMS is an ideal way to conserve this ecological and economic treasure. Specifically, this nomination proposes protection of the Hudson Canyon from offshore oil, gas and mineral exploration and development. Further, the nomination recommends that fisheries within the Hudson Canyon continue to be managed through existing regional and federal structures and not through any management plan associated with the sanctuary designation process as long as their effective management maintains fish populations in healthy conditions. This approach seems an ideal way to balance the needs of all stakeholders. 

The marine waters off the coast of New York and New Jersey sustain a world-class metropolitan region, a rich maritime history, highly productive fisheries and a rich diversity of marine life, thus deserving recognition and protection as a national treasure. An NMS off our coast will provide a special place for use and enjoyment today, while securing an ecological legacy for generations to come. 

I encourage you to consider initiating the public process for designation of Hudson Canyon as a National Marine Sanctuary. This is a once in a generation opportunity for NOAA to deepen the connection of 20 million New Yorkers to our treasured ocean resources.

Thank you for your consideration.