lutra canadensis

Marine life of New York Harbor

The Marine life of New York Harbor refers to the variety of flora and fauna in and around New York Harbor in the vicinity of New York City. A popular misconception holds that the harbor is incapable of supporting any life at all. In reality, it has supported a great variety of species throughout its history and continues to do so today as the waters have been cleaned.

Animal species


The crabs are typically found in the mouth of the Hudson River.

Once widely found through much of the harbor and a staple of the local diet from the time of the Algonquians up through the 19th century. Oystering grounds were prevalent in the Upper Harbor, as well as along the south shore of Staten Island and Jamaica Bay. The oyster still exists in the harbor but is not yet considered edible; there are plans to further clean up the areas so that the beds can be restored.


Found in the depths of Upper New York Bay, in the main channel of the Hudson River

One of the most prevalent species in the harbor, and the most extensively fished one.

This is the fish from which Sheepshead Bay in Brooklyn derives its name.


Historically both pinniped species were abundant natives in the harbor until hunting and other human activity extirpated them from the area by at least the late 19th century. In recent years, however, these two species, along with the some more typically northerly seal species like the harp seal have been found in the harbor in pursuit of some of the species mentioned above. Colonies of harbor seals can be found happily basking in the sun off Staten Island and Jamaica Bay from December through April, and as of 2005 have also been seen on Hoffman and Swinburne Island off the coast of Staten Island.

Has been seen in Upper New York Bay.

Native to the Hudson River and occasionally is seen at the mouth of the River. Restoration efforts by the state of New York are underway and appear to be successful.


Although not aquatic animals, these birds are supported by the food and habitat New York Harbor provides, particularly Jamaica Bay.


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