Map of NY seascape reveals a wildlife treasure trove

NY Seascape
© National Geographic/Wildlife Conservation Society

Just in time for World Oceans Day, the new map displays a stunning diversity of marine life, including one of the most endangered whales on the planet.

When New Yorkers think of incredible marine life, most of them do not think of that as something happening in their own watery backyard. Florida and the Caribbean, sure ... but New York Harbour and beyond? Not so much.

But in truth, the New York seascape is a veritable wonderland of wildlife, as evidenced in this new map created by Wildlife Conservation Society's New York Aquarium and National Geographic. It reveals the incredible diversity – and looming threats – belonging to the 16,000-square-mile area that stretches from the tip of Long Island to Cape May, New Jersey.

Known as the New York Bight, the area comprises an enormous secret realm, teeming with hundreds of species of fishes, sea turtles, whales, and natural wonders such as the Hudson Canyon, notes WCS.

“We designed this map to convey the amazing diversity and dynamism of marine life here in some of the busiest and most economically important waters of the world,” says Dr. Merry Camhi, Director of the New York Seascape Program, the New York Aquarium’s local marine conservation project.

The map is double-sided; one side (shown below, and with details) shows the inhabitants and human use with all kinds of information including things like shipping lane positions, vessel traffic, ocean temperatures, and the long-distance movements of 10 species of marine animals and birds as indicated by remote-sensing devices. And where all the shipwrecks are!

The other side of the map (top, and details below) offers a colorful cross-section of local marine ecosystems and species. "In one corner, species such as horseshoe crabs, piping plovers, and Atlantic sturgeon are depicted as representatives of the area’s coastal habitats, whereas flounders, striped bass, sharks, and marine mammals such as whales inhabit the seascape’s nearshore zone and continental shelf ecosystems," explains WCS. "Rarely seen deep-sea species such as tilefish, tubeworms, and viperfish are also represented."

And as you can see in the image above, we've even got one of the world's rarest whales – right here in New York! How can we be protecting them if we don't even know they are there?

“The map highlights the movements of one of the most endangered whales on the planet, the North Atlantic right whale, as it moves through New York’s waters,” says Dr. Howard Rosenbaum, Director of WCS’s Ocean Giants Program. “Hopefully, this will help draw attention to the needs of this and other species so close to our shores.”

You can take a better look here, where you can zoom in and explore the details. And if you happen to call New York home, hard copies of maps will be available on first-come-first-serve basis at the New York Aquarium on World Oceans Day, June 8th.

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