Shipwrecks Threaten Sensitive Ecosystem in Jamaica Bay

Jamaica Bay is a protected national park but has turned into a graveyard for yachts, boats, and barges, whose leaking oil and gas are a significant environmental hazard to an area that hosts over 350 different species of wildlife.

Jamaica Bay has become the dumping ground for derelict yachts, boats, and even barges according to a recent report on MSNBC.com. Despite its protection as part of the Gateway National Recreation Area- the only National Park in New York City- the Bay has accrued 88 shipwrecks.

Jamaica Bay is a 25,000 acre bay which is surrounded by Rockaway Peninsula on one side and John F. Kennedy Airport on the other. A third of the Bay is a national wildlife refuge which plays host to over 350 species.

The number of wrecks does not even take into account close to 160 wrecks collecting in the creeks leading into the Bay. These wrecks pose an environmental hazard by leaking oil and gas into the sensitive ecosystems surrounding Jamaica Bay. The risks are not just environmental; drug users have taken up residence in some of the wrecks and navigation in the Bay is threatened by them as well.

Park caretakers are fighting back. While most boat owners take care to try to remove all vestiges of the vehicle identification numbers, often they are not one hundred percent successful at doing so and this allows the government to track them down and charge them for the dumping fee.

The only time that they leave a wreck alone is if the resident wildlife have decided to use the wreck as a nesting ground, as was the case with a pack of harbor seals.

If you want to join the cleanup effort, inquire after doing so with the National Park Service.

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