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Places We Protect

Mid-Atlantic Seascape

Extending from Long Island’s Montauk Point in the north to Cape Hatteras in the south, our Mid-Atlantic Seascape encompasses coastal bays, barrier islands, deep submarine canyons, and ocean and seafloor habitats extending across the continental shelf. 

More than 57 million people live, work, and play along this stretch of coastline. Our emotional connections to the beach and ocean are spiritual and restorative.  It is a place where people re-energize, rejuvenate, relax, and create.

A Vast Blue Frontier

The Mid-Atlantic is also a virtual superhighway for migratory wildlife, including almost forty species of marine mammals, the Atlantic loggerhead and Kemp’s Ridley turtle, sharks, marlin, tuna, herring, eel, and striped bass or rockfish. Our ocean produces nearly 800 million pounds of seafood a year, with a dockside value of over $500 million.

With its rich history and maritime culture, we may romanticize the Mid-Atlantic as a vast blue frontier. The reality is that our ocean is surprisingly busy and has become increasingly crowded. Major ports of New York-New Jersey, Philadelphia, Wilmington, Baltimore, and Norfolk serve as critical nodes in the national and global transportation systems, handling over nine million containers and 233 million tons of cargo in 2011.

Our Mid-Atlantic Seascape remains a highly productive and diverse marine system, supporting shipping and ports, sport and commercial fishing, recreation and tourism, offshore sand mining, and a nascent offshore wind industry. It makes for a complex tapestry with sometimes competing priorities and needs. Our ocean’s management is divided among twenty-three different federal agencies attempting to enforce more than 140 often contradictory federal laws.

The Nature Conservancy has the opportunity address these complex challenges, to transform ocean management so that it balances the needs of people and nature – and helping to ensure that nature continues to provide the bounty we all need. We partner with decision-makers and ocean stakeholders, providing them with the sound, science-based data needed to develop the practical, solution-based ocean management strategies that will meet economic, societal, and conservation goals.

Our Solutions
  • Our collaborative approach brought fishermen, scientists, and ocean managers together to find solutions to a tough puzzle — how to protect ancient deep-sea coral habitats while minimizing impacts to economically and culturally valuable fisheries for squid and other species.  New measures approved on June 10, 2015 by the Mid-Atlantic Fisheries Management Council protects dozens of of submarine canyons across a seafloor area encompassing about 40,000 square miles — an area about the size of Virginia.
  • We’re creating tools to enable good decisions related to siting wind energy, placing offshore transmission lines, and gaining information about future impacts.
  • We worked with many partners, including environmental groups and recreational fishing groups, across fourteen states on a successful initiative to reduce the menhaden harvest by 20%.  Menhaden play a crucial role as a food source for the ocean.
  • In Delaware, we're partnering with the Center for Inland Bays (CIB) to launch an oyster shell recycling program.  The recycled shells may be used in natural bulkheads and reefs that can help control erosion, buffer the coast from storms, and provide nurseries for baby oysters, crabs, and fish.
  • In Maryland, our Nanticoke River partnership has permanently protected a 50-mile corridor extending from the Delaware Wildlife Area to Maryland’s Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge.  By restricting development along shoreline that is vulnerable to sea level rise, man-made infrastructure is kept out of high-risk areas. An undeveloped shoreline allows both natural marshes and agricultural land to adapt and migrate in response to sea level rise.
  • In New Jersey, we're working to create a more resilient Jersey Shore by engaging communities and other important stakeholders.  We're restoring salt marshes by beneficially using the sand and silt dredged from boating channels.  This innovative technique, which is brand new to New Jersey, has the potential to transform how salt marshes are managed while providing economic benefits to local communities by reducing local flooding and meeting the needs of their local boaters.
  • New Jersey is also working with  partners to develop a first-of-its-kind screening tool to help promote nature-based infrastructure solutions. The Restoration Explorer will assist communities in identifying types of living shoreline projects that would be most appropriate to help reduce shoreline erosion and flooding at high tide.
  • In New York, we've been working since 2004 to restore Great South Bay’s clam population in a three-pronged approach that includes stocking the bay with reproductive adult clams, helping to enact laws to protect the existing clam population, and working with partners to restore degraded water quality.
  • In Virginia, we're engaged in the largest, most successful seagrass restoration project in the world, broadcasting upwards of 30 million seeds across more than 400 acres.  These efforts have accelerated the natural spread of eelgrass, which now covers more than 4,700 acres in South, Spider Crab, Hog Island and Cobb Island bays.
  •  A $1.46 million grant from the Hurricane Sandy Coastal Resiliency Fund administered by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) will allow the Virginia chapter to expand the Conservancy’s state-of-the-art Coastal Resilience planning tool to the Eastern Shore, and to restore five oyster reefs to demonstrate nature-based solutions for risk reduction.

We can transform ocean management through science, expertise, and the practical tools that we bring to our partnerships. Most importantly, we’re a part of coastal communities and deeply invested in preserving the Mid-Atlantic Seascape for the benefit and enjoyment of generations to come.

Contact Us

Jay Odell
Director, Mid-Atlantic Marine Program

Explore Our Mid-Atlantic Stories

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