After a year-long search, the Peconic Baykeeper organization has a new leader.
Sean O’Neill, 34, of Center Moriches was named the new Peconic Baykeeper for the Quogue-based not-for-profit in May.
Mr. O’Neill said in an interview this week that he is excited to be the new baykeeper because he has always been passionate about the water. During his first few weeks on the job, he said, he dove right in and started meeting with community groups. He has met with the Phillips Pond Association, the Wickapogue Pond Association, the East Hampton Environmental Coalition and the Hampton Bays Civic Association to talk about water quality.
His goal as baykeeper, Mr. O’Neill explained, is to make all the local waterways more “swim-able, drink-able and fish-able.”
He is also spending time researching the brown tides in Shinnecock Bay and reviewing the community preservation funds in East Hampton and Southampton towns—specifically looking into the upcoming referendum on whether to allow the use of CPF money to improve water quality.
“It’s been great,” Mr. O’Neill said of his new job. “It’s been really good working out here on the water every day.”
When Mr. O’Neill goes out on the Peconic Baykeeper boat, which is docked at the Aldrich Marina in East Quogue, he could be taking water samples, observing shellfish populations or responding to report of fish kills or brown tide, among other tasks.
Even before accepting the job, he was no stranger to protecting the environment.
The new baykeeper, who grew up in Blue Point, said some of his earliest memories are of fishing at the Blue Point Marina and catching striped bass on Moriches Bay. In college he studied the environment: He has a bachelor’s degree in natural resource management from the University of Delaware and a master’s degree in fisheries economics from the University of Rhode Island. He also worked on charter boats based in Babylon, Orient Point and Rhode Island. He spent two years as the director of education and outreach for the Perfect Earth Project in East Hampton—a nonprofit organization that promotes toxin-free land management around the world, and most recently, he was a pesticide control specialist for the State Department of Environmental Conservation.
Dan Gulizio, executive director of the Peconic Baykeeper, said he was glad the organization had decided to hire Mr. O’Neill.
“We could not be any happier with his efforts here,” Mr. Gulizio said. “He’s doing a little bit of everything that we need to get done.”
Mr. Gulizio would not say how much the nonprofit is paying the new baykeeper.
Mr. O’Neill replaced Brady Wilkins, who held the position for six months before resigning in April 2015. The organization had been without a baykeeper since then.
“We just wanted to make sure we found the right person,” Mr. Gulizio said. “And, again, we’re really happy with Sean. His education and life experience on the water makes him a really great baykeeper. It was worth the wait.”
Before Mr. Wilkins, the baykeeper’s seat was held for 16 years by Kevin McAllister.