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Photo Credit: Smallbones
New Jersey is the most densely populated state in America.
It also contains a remarkably diverse natural environment. With its mix of mountains, meadows, pine barrens, and coastlines, we can proudly boast of playing home or host to 450 different species. Even more than Yellowstone National Park!
This diversity is the happy result of our unique geographical location.
The Garden State’s latitude puts it about midway between the equator and the Arctic. The state sits on the southern fringe of the continent’s northern range of species and straddles the northern fringe of southern species.
Our bays, estuaries, and coastal waters are also home to a remarkable collection of marine life. Twenty-eight different species of marine mammals and more than three hundred species of fish are found in our waters.
Photo Credit: US Fish & Wildlife Service
New Jersey is also a central stop on the flight path of North America’s birds.
In the Western Hemisphere, birds typically migrate in a north-south direction. There are several places in New Jersey where the paths of migratory animals cross and concentrate like smaller tributaries feeding into a river. These migratory paths for birds are called flyways.
The Atlantic Flyway is bordered by the Appalachian Mountains to the west and the Atlantic Ocean to the east.
“If North America was an hourglass, we’d be the narrow middle,” naturalist Pete Dunne recently told the Atlantic City Press.
Prevailing westerly winds carry migrating birds to the coastline where they get funneled into an ever-tighter cone that starts in Camden and peaks at the Cape May County peninsula. Every year, an estimated 425,000 to 1,000,000 migratory shorebirds converge on Delaware Bay to feed and rebuild energy reserves before continuing further north to their breeding grounds.
New Jersey is truly a crossroads of migration!
Photo Credit: Moondigger
The New Jersey Coastline stretches 127 miles from Sandy Hook in the north to Cape May in the south. The shore drives the state’s third largest economic sector, valued at nearly 80 billion dollars annually.
The beaches alone sustain a 16 billion dollar tourism industry and provide hundreds of thousands of jobs.
New Jersey is home to some 336 different species of fish. Flounder, striped bass, and blue fish are among the most abundant and the most eagerly sought-after species along the New Jersey shore.
Commercial fishing and shellfish harvesting contribute another 100 million dollars to the state’s economy.
Photo Credit: US State Department
New Jersey is also bracketed by two of the busiest ports in the country.
The Port of NY/NJ is home to the largest container port on the East Coast, and the Delaware Bay is the main oil transshipment port for the Eastern United States.
Altogether, some 1.5 million jobs depend on tourism, port commerce, and the fishing industry along New Jersey’s coastal waters.