Shinnecock Bay on Long Island is a new global “Hope Spot”

28 Oct 2022

Hope Spots are iconic ocean regions that stand out as some of the most pristine on the globe. Among the world famous Hope Spots are the Galapagos Islands, the Sargasso Sea, and the Ross Sea in Antarctica.

This year, Shinnecock Bay on the south shore of Long Island, New York, was named a new Hope Spot by Mission Blue, an international organization that supports the protection of oceans worldwide.

The Bay is the first Hope Spot in New York State, the only one near a major metropolitan region, and one of only three others on the Eastern Seaboard of the U.S.

This distinction is the result of a decade of restorative and scientific work co-led by Ellen Pikitch, the Endowed Professor of Ocean Conservation Science at Stony Brook University, and Director of the Institute for Ocean Conservation Science.

It is the result of meticulous work of a team of scientists, educators and students of SBU, who have worked together to revive the health, biodiversity, and aquaculture potential of Shinnecock Bay.

Dr. Sylvia Earle, founder of Mission Blue, says, “What a concept, in the shadow of one of the most densely populated parts of the planet – New York City! While New York conjures up visions of skyscrapers and crowded streets, it is a great ocean state with a significant coastline, a rich maritime heritage and growing opportunities to view ocean wildlife from the shores and in the water.”

The Shinnecock Bay Restoration Program has succeeded in bringing the bay back to the healthier state it was in many decades ago.

“Here we have something that really does provide hope for others because it shows that you can turn around — not everything, but you can turn around the harm that people have done to the environment,” says Ellen Pikitch.

“Shinnecock Bay is probably the healthiest bay in New York State, and our work demonstrates that people can reverse the damage done through nature based, scientifically guided restoration,” she continues. “We hope and expect that designation of Shinnecock Bay as a Hope Spot will inspire others to take action to restore other places to their original beauty, biodiversity, and health.”

Shinnecock Bay is a highly productive estuary that is approximately 122 kilometers from New York City. The bay is a hidden gem of biodiversity that covers an area of 40 square kilometers and consists of 9,000 acres of open water, salt marshes, intertidal flats, and seagrass beds. These habitats serve as important nursery, feeding, and breeding grounds for many species.

Additionally, the Shinnecock Bay area and surrounding lands has a long history to the Shinnecock Nation, whose reservation is located on the far eastern part of the bay. Leaders of the Shinnecock Nation have endorsed the designation of Shinnecock Bay as a Hope Spot.

The creation of “hard clam sanctuaries” in western Shinnecock Bay is a pivotal part of the restoration effort of the team of the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences (SoMAS) at Stony Brook University.

As a result of this work the dangerous brown and red tides that had been occurring annually have not been observed for several years.

Landings of hard clams outside the sanctuaries have increased dramatically and are at a level not seen since the mid-1980’s.

And, numbers of fish in the bay, most notably forage fishes such as bay anchovy and menhaden, have greatly increased.


By Gilbert Castro | ENC News


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