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Nov 20, 2017 5:44 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Giving Thanks

This humpback whale was one of many marine mammals seen feeding on bunker off Long Island this summer and fall. DR. ARTHUR H KOPELMAN
Nov 20, 2017 9:25 AM

In the spirit of celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday, I thought that I would look back on the year and note some of the things related to the outdoors and nature here on the South Fork that we can be thankful for.Topping that list, we got through this year’s hurricane season in good shape. That was not true for some other parts of the country, and certainly not true for the Caribbean islands that many of us look forward to visiting every winter. But for the South Fork, hurricane season brought some of the best surf we’ve seen here in years, and lots of it.

Going into winter, and the inevitable winter storms to come, we can be thankful that our beaches are in good shape. Speaking of beaches, a big “thank you” is due to all the folks and organizations that help keep them clean. Your efforts work two-fold: not only hauling trash off the beach but also raising awareness in our community that our beaches are special places.

Since the mid-1980s our harbors, bays, ponds and lakes have been hit hard with five different types of “harmful algal blooms” that have wreaked havoc on marine and freshwater ecosystems. First, in 1985, the brown tide, then in 2002 the rust tide, followed by two types of algal blooms that cause shellfish poisoning and a toxic freshwater cyanobacteria.

Improvements in water testing have enabled researchers to determine that the source of the nitrogen nutrients causing these harmful blooms is the individual, on-site septic system (septic tank and cesspool) that was designed to entrain viruses and bacteria, keeping them out of our groundwater, but not nitrogen.

There are a lot of them—a quarter million in Suffolk County—and it will take a long time and a lot of money to deal with this issue. But we can be thankful that there is no longer any argument as to what the source of the problem is, and that money has been allocated to start remediating the problem.

A big thank you to our East Hampton Village officials, the Ladies Village Improvement Society, and our local chapter of Surfrider Foundation for initiating a stormwater remediation project utilizing native plants at the highly visible Town Pond green. And thanks to East Hampton Town officials for initiating a similar project at Pussy’s Pond, Springs. Both have excellent educational value and will hopefully encourage more of these types of projects in the future.

On the wildlife side, just 15 years ago who would have thought that we would have not one, but two pairs of eagles nesting here on the East End (and five nesting pairs on Long Island!). Or otters successfully breeding here and expanding their home ranges in recent years to include Northwest Creek, Shelter Island, most of Southold all the way out to Orient, North Sea and the Little River in the Flanders/Riverhead area.

And a big thank you to the menhaden that passed along our shores all summer and fall in schools that made the water boil, attracting all sorts of piscivores, most notably whales and dolphins that were seen from the ocean beach most days this summer. That was quite a show!

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