Huge Underwater Canyon Near New York City Could Become a Marine Sanctuary

Huge Underwater Canyon Near New York City Could Become a Marine Sanctuary
Deepwater octopus, Graneledone verrucosa (Photo: NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research)

The Biden administration this week announced its intent to designate a new marine sanctuary about 160 kilometres southeast of New York City. The Hudson Canyon is a large underwater canyon more than 3.2 kilometres beneath the surface of the Atlantic Ocean. It’s home to a variety of species, including vulnerable sperm whales.

In case you missed it, President Biden deemed June as National Ocean Month, and earlier this week, he announced that the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration has initiated the process of designating the Hudson Canyon as the country’s newest marine sanctuary. Scientists believe that the Hudson Canyon was created by the coursing of the Hudson River thousands of years ago, when sea level was much lower and the river’s mouth was closer to the edge of the continental shelf. NOAA says that the Hudson Canyon is one of the largest submarine canyons in the world, reaching depths of up to 4 kilometres with a width of up to 12 kilometres.

The Hudson Canyon is located about 100 miles (160 kilometers) southeast of New York City. (Image: NOAA)The Hudson Canyon is located about 160 kilometres southeast of New York City. (Image: NOAA)

A marine sanctuary in the Hudson Canyon could provide “habitat for endangered, protected, and sensitive species including sperm whale, sea turtles, and unique and diverse seep communities,” according to a White House fact sheet. “The canyon boasts deep sea, cold-water coral communities, and contains various shipwrecks, including freighters and United States military radar platforms, dating back to the mid-19th Century,” the White House also said.

The potential designation is a part of the Biden Administrations push to conserve 30% of U.S. land and water by 2030. The goal is lofty, and Hudson Canyon is not the first ocean sanctuary the administration has interest in: NOAA advanced Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary in California last fall and is currently reviewing public comments. NOAA has a four-part designation process for potential marine sanctuaries, and it has just began the “scoping” phase for Hudson Canyon, during which time it will seek public comment on a potential name and set of boundaries for the sanctuary.

There are currently 15 national marine sanctuaries. These protected waters help to provide a secure habitat for wildlife by limiting the presence of humans in the area. And these creatures need all the help they can get: A recent study found that ocean life is headed for the worst mass extinction in 250 million years.