by Sarah Ryan Hudson | originally published in The Gam, July 2022

The Hudson River meets the Atlantic Ocean in New York Harbor, but it hasn’t always been this way. During the last ice age, around 10,000 years ago, the sea level was much lower. The Hudson River flowed for another 100 miles to the southeast in order to reach the Atlantic. Today, this is approximately the start of Hudson Canyon, which continues for another 350 miles seaward, reaching depths of 2.5 miles.

Hudson Canyon map; credit: USGS


In June, an announcement the GW Advocacy Team has been hoping and preparing for finally came! NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries proposed the designation of Hudson Canyon National Marine Sanctuary (NMS). Initiating the first of a four-step designation process, public scoping, invites the public to participate by submitting comments and attending public hearings.

We’re excited to continue our ongoing work with Wildlife Conservative Society (WCS) on this initiative. WCS prepared a community-based proposal to nominate the Canyon in 2016. When it came time for the 5-year review, we demonstrated the incredible biodiversity and interest for whale-watchers and birders to travel 100+ miles offshore to observe the pelagic species found there. The American Princess, our first research platform and commercial whale watching partner, offers overnight trips to the Canyon.

The NMS system oversees a network of underwater parks designated and protected by NOAA for significant conservation, recreational, ecological, historical, scientific, cultural, archaeological, educational, or aesthetic qualities. Ecotourism can show the value in more than one of these qualities.

Whale and dolphin watching is recreation! Conservation of local ecological bounty is not only beneficial for the wildlife, it’s an investment in the industry. Taking a cruise with a Whale SENSE certified tour operator supports responsible wildlife observation, and in our case, research, education, and advocacy. The growing interest in whale watching has directly enabled us to catalog 250+ humpback whales and the increasing number of marine mammal sightings. Today, Gotham Whale works with multiple local cruise companies, ferries, sport fishers, and other mariners to collect data alongside our citizen science project. There’s a lot left to learn about the wildlife trends in the NY-NJ Bight.

Graphics: NOAA Fisheries

Efforts to clean up the Hudson River and surrounding waterways play a large role in attracting wildlife back to the area. In 1972, the Clean Water Act and the “Ocean Dumping Act” regulated the pollution sources and hazardous dumping. Since then, NOAA has questioned if historic pollution and dumping is reaching and settling in The Canyon. During this public comment period, NOAA collects input on specific topics including research and education programs.

The evolving awareness and knowledge of Hudson Canyon will strengthen the connection New York and New Jersey residents have with our waterfront and its maritime history. It will create new opportunities for employment, research, education, advocacy, and recreation close to New York City. Hopefully, knowing how our watershed impacts the Bight, the Canyon, and the wildlife will spark a desire for people to treat our community with extra care.

Designating Hudson Canyon a National Marine Sanctuary will support conservation of marine wildlife and habitats including permanently restricting  oil, gas and mineral exploration and extraction. In addition to expanding education and awareness, it will promote sustainable economic uses and investments in scientific research. Gotham Whale will be joining other conservationists, recreational interests, and tour operators, in support of Hudson Canyon receiving the NMS designation.

Gotham Whale looks forward to sharing more advocacy updates  If you learned something new or interesting, we hope you’ll consider donating to support our mission:


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The first trip of 2022 to the Hudson Canyon!