The Outer Banks (also known as OBX) is a 200-mile (320-km) string of narrow barrier islands off the coast of North Carolina, USA beginning in the southeastern corner of Virginia Beach to the southern tip of Ocracoke Island. Roughly 85% of the islands belongs to Cape Hatteras National Seashore. Hatteras was named after the Hatteras Indians and is known as the blue marlin (billfish) capital of the world.
Why Protect It?
One of the unique characteristics of Cape Hatteras is its proximity to the continental slope, roughly 40 miles offshore, making it the closest landmass to the slope on the entire east coast.
Influenced by the currents, large windrows of Sargassum, a free-floating brown algae, consistently aggregate just off Cape Hatteras creating another important and unique characteristic beneficial to marine life. Sargassum found off North Carolina’s coast is home to 81 fish species.
Cape Hatteras is one of the most important fishing sites on the entire east coast. It hosts, among others, the spotted sea trout, striped bass, king mackerel, spot fish, flounder, Northern and Southern kingfish, grey trout, croaker, speckled trout, bluefish, Red Drum, cobia, and blue and white marlin, tuna, wahoo and mahi mahi. The great variety of fish found in the region make it a popular area for fishing charters.
Numerous species of marine mammals are known to visit this region to forage for food. Many of these species are federally protected and listed as threatened or endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA) including: the sperm, North Atlantic right, humpback, sei, fin, and blue whales. Other marine ESA-listed species that have been documented in this area are the critically endangered leatherback, the threatened loggerhead, green, Kemp’s ridley sea turtles, roseate tern, Bermuda petrel, and piping plover. The endangered Atlantic sturgeon and shortnose sturgeon frequent this habitat as well the Risso’s dolphins, Nassau grouper, dusky shark, and great hammerhead shark.
According to the literature Cape Hatteras has the highest density and biodiversity of marine mammals along the east coast.
We are lucky enough to have 5 of the 7 species of sea turtles inhabit the waters off our coast and utilize our beaches for nesting. However all 5 species are threatened, endangered, or even critically endangered. So much like other endangered vertebrates, protecting their habitats is key to saving these unique creatures from extinction. North Carolina has a large population of sea turtles that nest on its beaches. Of the 25 NC beaches monitored for sea turtle nesting activity, the combined Outer Banks beaches consistently rank among the highest in activity. In 2012, Cape Hatteras, Cape Lookout, Northern Outer Banks and Pea Island beaches produced 46% of all nests, 38% of all nests in 2013, and currently, 52% of all reported sea turtle nests in North Carolina.
Off-road vehicles monopolizing barrier beaches
Global sea level rise
Oil and gas companies are looking to drill right on this continental slope!!