Shinnecock Bay Deemed a ‘Hope Spot’

Shinnecock Bay dolphins swimming from the Shinnecock Inlet
Bottlenose dolphins swimming from the Shinnecock Inlet into the bay.
Christopher Paparo/Fish Guy Photos

Mission Blue, an international environmental nonprofit, has dubbed Shinnecock Bay a “Hope Spot” — a designation reserved for the world’s most pristine waterways — following a decade of work to improve the water quality.

The designation recognizes scientific work by Ellen Pikitch, director of the Institute for Ocean Conservation Science, and her colleagues Christopher Gobler and Bradley Peterson in the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences at Stony Brook University, where a team of scientists, educators and students have worked together to revive the health, biodiversity, and aquaculture potential of the bay.

“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,” Sylvia Earle, founder of Mission Blue, said June 6 during an event announcing the designation at The Explorers Club in New York City.

Shinnecock Bay is the first Hope Spot in New York State, the only one near a major metropolitan region, and one of three on the East Coast. The designation puts Shinnecock Bay in the same league as internationally recognized locations such as the Galapagos Islands, the Sargasso Sea, and the Ross Sea in Antarctica.

The 15-square-mile bay features salt marshes, intertidal flats and seagrass beds supporting habitats that serve as important nursery, feeding and breeding grounds for many species. Restoration work began after brown and red tides in the 1980s wiped out shellfisheries. Hard clam sanctuaries have led to an increase in fish in the bay.

“The Hope Spot distinction for this unique bay on Long Island is the result of meticulous work and proof that the Shinnecock Bay Restoration Program has succeeded in bringing the bay back to the healthier state it was in many decades ago,” said Pikitch. “Shinnecock Bay is arguably the healthiest bay in New York State, and our work demonstrates that people can reverse the damage done through nature-based, scientifically guided restoration. 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.”

Learn more about Mission Blue at mission-blue.org

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