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Aug 8, 2012 9:16 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Red Tide Returns, With A Deadly New Twist

Aug 8, 2012 12:24 PM

Blooms of a “red tide” algae stained the East End’s bays once again this week, the ninth straight year the organism known as cochlodinium has emerged here, and this year’s blooms appear to be on track to be among the densest and most harmful experienced since the species first appeared in local waters, scientists say.

Already the blooms have set a destructive new milestone, as they are being blamed for the first time for the death of hundreds of wild fish in a creek off Flanders Bay. Lab tests had long ago shown the organism to be toxic to fish and shellfish but this week is the first time scientists have seen direct evidence of the blooms killing free-swimming fish in the wild.

According to scientists from Suffolk County and the Stony Brook University School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, hundreds of menhaden, striped bass, black sea bass and smaller baitfish that died suddenly in Chase’s Creek in Aquebogue were covered in a reddish slime that is associated with cochlodinium blooms.

Stony Brook professor Dr. Chris Gobler, one of the world’s foremost authorities on the brown tide blooms that devastated East End fisheries in the 1980s and 1990s, said that water samples taken from the creek on the morning of the fish kill showed that low oxygen levels, a common cause of fish kills, were not an issue in the creek and that the red tide algae counts were extremely high throughout the creek.

“I don’t know how much more definitely we could say it was from one of these blooms,” Dr. Gobler said this week. “When we got there, some of the fish were still expiring. We took samples and oxygen levels were super-saturated … much higher than normal waters, so that was not the problem. But there was a very intense cochlodinium bloom going on. The fish that were dead were covered with this rust-colored slime that is caused by cocholodinium. We’ve had fish kills in pound nets and in tanks at our marine lab … where the fish can’t move, but this is the first time we’ve seen a wild population of fish dying from one of these blooms.”

The red tide blooms, which appear as reddish-brown to crimson red striations on the surface of local bays in late morning and afternoon, popped up early last week in eastern Shinnecock Bay and throughout the Peconic Bay Estuary. The late July bloom is three to four weeks earlier than the blooms have appeared in most previous years, though it is about a week later than it appeared in 2010.

Dr. Gobler said the early appearance is probably due to the high temperatures in July. In 2010, he said the early emergence, combined with high temperatures, led to denser and more widespread cochlodinium blooms, a pattern that this year’s bloom appears to be following as well.

“In 2010 we found that the blooms got really intense, and there were times when all of Peconic Bay was covered with them, whereas in other years its been more patchy. We might be headed there again.”

Soon after cochlodinium was first detected in local waters, scientists discovered that the organism, a dinoflagellate that can propel itself through the water column, sinking to the bottom of the bays at night and rising to the top during the day, was highly toxic to most marine species like fish and shellfish. It is not harmful to humans, however, unlike another species of red tide algae that has been found blooming in western Shinnecock Bay in recent years, leading to closures of shellfish harvesting there in the late spring and early summer.

Dr. Gobler said that the blooms of cochlodinium also thrive on elevated levels of nitrates in water and that runoff and groundwater tainted with fertilizer from farm fields just north of Chases’s Creek in Aquebogue probably fed the dense blooms there that killed the fish.

It was a group of scientists from Stony Brook led by Dr. Gobler that issued a report last year on years of research linking the emergence of harmful algal blooms, like the red tide and brown tide, to nitrogen seeping into local tidal waters from septic systems of homes within the watershed.

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But global warming is just a myth...
By Mr. Z (9153), North Sea on Aug 8, 12 3:12 PM
1 member liked this comment
Z.

"It was a group of scientists from Stony Brook led by Dr. Gobler that issued a report last year on years of research linking the emergence of harmful algal blooms, like the red tide and brown tide, to nitrogen seeping into local tidal waters from septic systems of homes within the watershed."

That has nothing to do with global warming. It's directly related to nitrogen in the water. . .
By Nature (2952), Hampton Bays on Aug 8, 12 3:31 PM
1 member liked this comment
Please prove with 100% certainty that the red tide "has nothing to do with global warming."

Thank you.
By PBR (4801), Southampton on Aug 8, 12 3:49 PM
We all know you can't prove anything to 100%, but I'll flip it on you and ask you to please explain how "global warming" (which we all know is actually "global climate change") is in any way responsible for algal blooms. Algae needs nitrogen to bloom, so when there is a spike in nitrogen, you get algal blooms.
By Nature (2952), Hampton Bays on Aug 8, 12 4:10 PM
Yes, of course nitrogen is ONE contributing cause, but only one of many one would assume. In a multi-variable sophisticated study, are you saying that rising sea and air temperatures are NOT even a factor in higher counts of, or more dense, algal blooms?

No scientist here, but your blanket assertion of "nothing to do with" begged for a correction IMO. You made an inaccurate statement, no big deal. Now we know.

No one here has any obligation to prove the flip side of any coin you ...more
By PBR (4801), Southampton on Aug 8, 12 4:21 PM
back in the early 1960's the county passed a ban on nitrogen and phosphates in detergents sold in Suffolk County. Most people in the East End followed the ban and used soap for cleaning. that resulted in overflowing cesspools and eventually we drifited back to detergents. But during the time of compliance the bays did clean up.
By summertime (589), summerfield fl on Aug 8, 12 8:22 PM
My assertion was because Mr Z. was making a blanket statement that it was due to Global Warming. Global Warming isn't even real - it's global climate change, and without the eleveated nitrogen levels you have no algal blooms.
By Nature (2952), Hampton Bays on Aug 8, 12 4:29 PM
1 member liked this comment
Funny, you made another inaccurate statement:

"Mr Z. was making a blanket statement that it was due to Global Warming."

Here is what Mr. Z said in his first post above at 3:12 PM (one assumes you are referring to comments in this chain only?):

Mr. Z: "But global warming is just a myth... "

Maybe I am missing something, but doesn't this short rhetorical question (of sorts) seem intended mainly to prod the mind to think about possible cause and effect relationships? ...more
By PBR (4801), Southampton on Aug 8, 12 5:36 PM
Have a good evening. I have better things to do.
By PBR (4801), Southampton on Aug 8, 12 5:38 PM
"Dr. Gobler said the early appearance is probably due to the high temperatures in July. In 2010, he said the early emergence, combined with high temperatures, led to denser and more widespread cochlodinium blooms, a pattern that this year’s bloom appears to be following as well."
By Mr. Z (9153), North Sea on Aug 8, 12 5:55 PM
This variety of cochlodinium was ordinarily reported only as far north as Virginia in the early '80's. Since 2002, it has appeared with more frequency, and now apparently ferocity. Warmer summers, warmer waters, and time will definitely tell the tale.

Greenland is in full thaw, and a chunk the size of Manhattan recently broke away from it.

If you want the real story on the correlation between average warming, and CO2 content in the atmosphere see the British Antarctic Survey ...more
By Mr. Z (9153), North Sea on Aug 8, 12 6:08 PM
mr Z if you check global temperature readings going back several hundred years ( yes measurements were made that far back , although not as thoroughly as today) you will see that global temperatures rise and fall in a cyclical pattern. A 50 year increase followed by a fifty year decrease, for a net temperature change of fractions of a degree..

All of you global warming fanatics choose to look at a small slice of available data, that which shows an increase. Look at the ...more
By CaptainSig (636), Dutch Harbor on Aug 8, 12 7:59 PM
meant to say that a small increase is to be expected due to urbanization.
By CaptainSig (636), Dutch Harbor on Aug 8, 12 8:01 PM
You also need to factor in volcanism as well. Many of the cold spells, especially in the latter half of the nineteeth century were due to volcanoes blowing their stacks.

I recall a story about the year without a summer...
Aug 8, 12 8:04 PM appended by Mr. Z
The British data also includes ice cores. Antarctica is the purest sample of atmosphere on Earth, thanks to the circumpolar current.
By Mr. Z (9153), North Sea on Aug 8, 12 8:04 PM
And Siggy, acidification is also something to "plug in" as well.

Somehow it seems that the Ph of the ocean is dropping faster than a lead weight into the Marianas. The speed at which the ocean is turning into seltzer water seems to be unprecedented...
By Mr. Z (9153), North Sea on Aug 8, 12 8:19 PM
Don't forget increased solar activity. The sun plays a very important role and recent increased solar activity can be another cause.
By razza5350 (1857), East Hampton on Aug 9, 12 12:27 AM
keep building and fertilizing. I'm sure that will solve the problem!
By local (106), north sea on Aug 8, 12 9:21 PM
Absoutely right with he sun's Solar Minimums and Maximums. This has been happening for centuries, just as the moon raises and lowers the tides with gravitational pull, so does the sun with Solar Flares ect on weather changes - watch for EMP's from the sun.....

I remember shoveling 18 inches of Global Warming 2 Winters ago!

By Fedupin HamptonBays (17), Hampton Bays on Aug 9, 12 11:47 AM
1 member liked this comment
More open water, means more moisture is available.

Similar principle to "lake effect" snow. Cold dry air + Lake Erie = a foot or more of fun. Well, after the initial clean up...
By Mr. Z (9153), North Sea on Aug 11, 12 6:28 AM
Ah hah, why not blame it on the duck farms like we did last time? Ooops we got rid of them already !
By Tommy Turbo (46), Deep River, CT on Aug 9, 12 1:21 PM
There is still a huge polluting duck farm in Jamesport and a sewage treatment plant in Riverhead releasing millions of gallons of treated gray water. Gray water? Ironic thee treatment plant opened a little before the scallops dissapeared.
By chief1 (2291), southampton on Aug 15, 12 9:18 AM
Well, let's take a little trip down geological history lane.

250 million years ago when Middle Eastern oil was created the Arctic Ocean was choked with seaweed, and all of the seven seas were anoxic. 90% of the life on the planet went extinct, and the natural process of carbon sequestration created crude oil. The volcanism that led to anoxic ocean conditions released a massive amount of carbon dioxide into the oceans. This led to a severe drop in pH, and rendered the oceans acidic. ...more
Aug 9, 12 6:40 PM appended by Mr. Z
Permian-Triassic extinction, BTW.
By Mr. Z (9153), North Sea on Aug 9, 12 6:40 PM
What?

NO dissent to that post whatsoever?

I'm disappointed...
By Mr. Z (9153), North Sea on Aug 13, 12 8:21 PM
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