By Huck Fairman
This week the Hunterdon, Warren, and Central New Jersey Sierra groups presented a Zoom talk on the proposed Hudson Canyon National Marine Sanctuary. Kip Cherry spoke for the Princeton members.
The talk was delivered by Noah Chesnin, associate director for the New York Seascape Program and Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), which uses the New York Aquarium on Coney Island for preservation experience and studies.
The Hudson Canyon is a huge, Grand Canyon-like canyon reaching out southeast from the Hudson River but 350 miles offshore. Its walls can rise 3,500 feet, while at its deepest it reaches down 10,500 feet. It is both the home for many aquatic species and the route that many other species use when migrating along the North American coast.
The purpose of the proposed National Marine Sanctuary is to protect the many species that use its waters, and to study them. The diversity of life that lives in, and migrates through, these waters is surprisingly broad. In addition to a range of fish, its residents and transient populations include sharks, turtles, whales, dolphins, porpoises, corals, invertebrates, and birds.
The purpose of the WCS is to study, come to understand, and preserve this habitat and its rich array of life. In pursuing these goals, the WCS works in exchanging information with The Woods Hole Science Aquarium, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and 15 national marine sanctuaries. The closest sanctuary is the Chesapeake sanctuary extending from that bay and the Potomac River.
A number of human activities can potentially threaten and destroy life in the proposed sanctuary area. The high volume of shipping in the New York, New Jersey, and Long Island waters can affect the wildlife. Drilling for oil, gas, or methane presents another threat. Commercial and recreational fishing can impact fish and shrimp. The pervasiveness of plastics in waterbodies is another threat to wildlife. The human population living along the several adjacent shores is 20 million.
But seeking to learn about and balance these factors are a number of interested parties that are studying and seeking to preserve the life in these waters. They include 41 environmental groups, eco-tourism organizations, 90 zoos and aquariums, more than 100 scientists and the facilities at their institutions, and even cultural and artistic organizations.
The building and operating wind turbines can provide environmental benefits (fewer global warming emissions) while also disturbing the resident and migrating aquatic life. The noise from construction and the mere presence of the towers and blades may be disruptive. But the interested parties can draw on European experience with turbines and indeed global experience working to protect, educate, and formulate policies.
The understanding of life in the proposed sanctuary will take time to study and arrive at. Many questions remain. The WCS expects the necessary research, education, and policy formulation to extend over multiple decades.