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.
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, and to transform ocean management so that it balances the needs of people and nature – and to ensure that nature continues to provide the bounty we all need. We collaborate 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.
- We helped form MARCO (Mid-Atlantic Regional Council on the Ocean), a regional planning body and helped create America's first ocean information system to be used by such a body
- 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 across fourteen states on a successful initiative to reduce the menhaden harvest by 20%. Menhaden have been called the “most important fish in the sea” because of their crucial role as a food source for the ocean. A recovered stock will improve the health and resilience of the marine food web in the Atlantic and will enhance the long-term sustainability of coastal communities and industries that depend on the harvest of menhaden and other fish species
- We are engaged in an era of restoration and influence at the Virginia Coast Reserve. We have constructed nearly 50 acres of functional oyster reefs via traditional shell plants since 2002, and worked with the state to establish five joint oyster sanctuaries. Three additional sanctuaries are solely owned by the Conservancy. We have worked with Allied Concrete Inc. to develop a easily deployable alternative substrate for oyster restoration called an “oyster castle”; castles are now being utilized for oyster restoration up and down the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. We've joined with the Virginia Institute of Marine Science to plant 416 acres of eelgrass in four coastal bays that has now spread across 5,000 acres, and re-introduced juvenile scallops that are now reproducing in the wild for the first time since the 1930s. The largest coastal wilderness remaining on the East Coast, VCR is a globally important habitat for migrating and nesting shorebirds and seabirds.
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 the local community and deeply invested in preserving the Mid-Atlantic Seascape for the benefit and enjoyment of generations to come.