Blue Beacon: Dive Into Hudson Canyon!

Jenny Larsen (Policy Manager) and Chip Weiskotten (Communications Director) from the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation volunteering at Dive Into Hudson Canyon! Photo credit: Chip Weiskotten

Written by Cayla Turner, Youth Development Coordinator for the New York Aquarium

WCS’s New York Aquarium partnered with the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation to organize a family friendly “Dive Into Hudson Canyon!” event, supported by Finless Foods, as part of the Foundation’s ongoing Blue Beacon Series. The goal of this event was to raise awareness and inspire action to help conserve the important Hudson Canyon marine habitat.  

Cayla Turner and Bruiser the California sea lion smile for the camera at the New York Aquarium! Photo credit: Cayla Turner

New York City is a city of islands. And yet, when it comes to living in a big city, it may be easy to forget about the natural world at our doorstep.  The waterways that encompass the boroughs are home to complex ecological communities, most of which scientists still know little about. Nevertheless, the Wildlife Conservation Society’s New York Aquarium seeks to connect members of the public to the importance of wildlife and wild places, including Hudson Canyon in our ocean backyard. Hudson Canyon lies about 100 miles southeast of New York City, and is the largest underwater canyon off the country’s East Coast and is home to a diverse array of wildlife from deep sea corals to whales to sharks and other fishes. Because of its ecological importance, WCS nominated Hudson Canyon as a National Marine Sanctuary.  Even though this area is rather local, many residents of New York and New Jersey have never heard of the Hudson Canyon before. This appears to be one of the biggest hurdles the Hudson Canyon is facing on its journey to becoming a National Marine Sanctuary. 

Photo credit: Chip Weiskotten

In June 2022, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) initiated the designation process for the proposed Hudson Canyon National Marine Sanctuary. Youth volunteers at the New York Aquarium worked to help generate public comments to NOAA supporting the sanctuary designation. Adult visitors signed petitions and younger visitors prepared drawings. As the Youth Development Coordinator here at the New York Aquarium, I help educate the volunteers on the Canyon’s location and importance, while helping them prepare to talk with guests about why they should care about the wildlife inhabiting these areas.  The volunteers were stationed by the aquarium’s own “Hudson Canyon’s Edge” Exhibit, which showcases some of the species found in this habitat, and spread awareness to visitors while addressing concerns about the future for the Hudson Canyon.

Kristen Crossett and Marcie Orenstein (NOAA Ocean Exploration). Photo credit: Marcie Orenstein

On September 18th, many partners came together at the New York Aquarium to help raise awareness about Hudson Canyon and the work they are doing to support ocean conservation as a part of the Blue Beacon Series, which aims to bring important ocean and Great Lakes policy issues conversations into locally relevant contexts. In addition to the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation and Finless Foods, partners included the Atlantic Marine Conservation Society, the Billion Oyster Project, City Parks Foundation, Citizens Campaign for the Environment, Natural Resources Defense Council, NOAA Ocean Exploration, Oceanic Global, Surfrider Foundation, Waterfront Alliance, and the Wildlife Conservation Society’s New York Seascape Program.

Blue Beacon Series: Dive into Hudson Canyon! highlighted how building a connection to deep sea ecosystems plays a key role in whether or not folks decide to take action. Each organization emphasized that everybody has a role to play to support conservation – whether it is volunteering, choosing sustainable , or reducing the amount of single-use plastics you use. Each of the partners emphasized the importance of equity, as there were ample free opportunities to get engaged and learn more about local wildlife which helped eliminate barriers visitors may face when wanting to make a change. 

This was the second event in 2022 of the Foundation’s Blue Beacon Series, which brings to light the pressing issues facing our ocean and great lakes. Read the blog post about Blue Beacon: Marine Sanctuaries & Gulf Restoration here. We hope you will join us next year for the Blue Beacon Series! For more information and to learn about upcoming events, please visit


Photo credit: Chip Weiskotten