Geography

The Bight

The NY/NJ Bight, or the “New York Bight” is a rich, diverse area.  The major driving force for much of the ecology of the region is the confluence here in the Bight of the Labrador Current, which brings cold water from the North Atlantic, and the Gulf Stream, which brings warm water from the Gulf of Mexico and the tropics.  These currents (see map below), make the region home to a wide variety of species – from plankton that feed off nutrient-rich cold waters to top-predators like tuna or right whales which migrate through the Bight in search for food.

World famous beach destinations abound along the Bight’s coastline.  From the popular boardwalks of Cape May, Wildwood, and Atlantic City, to the 7-mile-long Sandy Hook National Recreation Area, the “Jersey Shore” has a century-old tradition of making the most out of it’s beaches.  Half-way along the Shore is the Barnegat Bay – a back bay home to a unique array of people, fish, and wetlands.  The Shore in Jersey has innumerable back bays, inlets, coastal lagoons, wetlands, and dunes, making it an ecological attraction on top of the economic.

In New York, Staten Island’s beaches and harbors open onto historic Coney Island, The Rockaways of Brooklyn, and the South Shore of Long Island.  Jamaica Bay, an expansive wetland fully contained within the official borders of New York City, is at the west end of the South Shore.  Further along the shore, Long Island’s beaches grow more and more sparsely populated – the Fire Island National Seashore isn’t even accessible by road – ferries need to be taken from ‘mainland’ Long Island towns to reach communities nestled in the dunes.  At the East End of Long Island lies Montauk and the Hamptons – where fishing ports, bucolic towns, and sandy beaches curl around the Island’s tip as currents flow in and out of the Long Island Sound.

Among the many geographic and geologic areas of interest in the Bight is the Hudson Canyon.

The Hudson Canyon is an extension of the Hudson River – during the ice age, when water levels were much lower, river systems cut this canyon into the continental shelf.  Starting in the NY/NJ Harbor, the canyon runs 400 nautical miles out to sea – from the Hudson Shelf Valley to the Hudson Canyon itself where the canyon reaches depths of 2,500 meters.

The history of the Hudson Canyon is particularly relevant to the Clean Ocean Zone initiative because of it’s history of ocean dumping – between 1986 and 1992, the canyon was the worlds largest municipal sewage deep water dumpsite.

Fortunately, after two decades of protection, the Hudson Canyon now “contains a remarkable diversity of deep-sea life, including extensive and complex deep sea coral and sponge formations. The canyon provides an over-wintering area for a large number of fish species such as summer flounder and black sea bass,” and tilefish.  Sport fishermen come from all over the world to fish in the canyon – where the deep water drives many open-ocean species close to shore, and the unique ecosystem is a hotbed of new marine biology and oceanographic research.

Check out more elements of the Bight’s unique features in the maps here:

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