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Jul 5, 2017 2:34 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Shinnecock, Quantuck, Moriches Bays Free Of Brown Tide This Year So Far

Shinnecock Bay.   PRESS FILE
Jul 9, 2017 2:57 PM

For the first time in many years, the reaches of western Shinnecock Bay and eastern Moriches Bay have not been beset in early summer with “brown tide” algae blooms, scientists from Stony Brook University said.

While brown tide blooms have been recorded in historic, record-breaking levels in Great South Bay already this year, the Moriches-Quantuck-Shinnecock chain of tidal embayments has been free of the blooms that were once the scourge of the entire East End.

“Eastern Moriches Bay, Quantuck Bay and western Shinnecock Bay have always been hit hardest by brown tide, but this year they have been let off the hook,” said Dr. Christopher Gobler, a marine scientist at Stony Brook’s School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences and a member of the team that is leading an effort to improve water quality in western Shinnecock Bay.

“While a multi-year effort to restore hard clams to this region may be helping, it is certain that the absence of brown tide this year will accelerate those restoration efforts in this region,” he continued.

Stony Brook researchers, backed by more than $3 million in bequeathments, have been seeding millions of clams in parts of western Shinnecock and Quantuck bays in hopes that the shellfish, if present in sufficient numbers, would consume enough algae to prevent certain harmful species from reaching epidemic bloom levels.

The brown tide algae, Aureococcus anophagefferens, first appeared on Long Island in 1985 in blooms that turned local bays coffee-colored as they spread. The blooms recurred for most of the next 10 years, wiping out once plentiful stocks of valuable bay scallops and decimating bayman communities that relied on them.

The blooms have not reappeared in the Peconics since 1995 but had exploded in Quantuck Bay nearly every year since, and in western Shinnecock and eastern Moriches bays each of the last several years.

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