Long Island Fish Kill: Latest Sign of Nitrogen Pollution
June 3, 2015
by Mike Clifford
NEW YORK – If anyone needed a new sign of nitrogen pollution problems in New York, scientists say the tens of thousands of bait fish that washed ashore on Long Island this weekend are prime indicators.
Carl LoBue, senior marine scientist for the Nature Conservancy on Long Island, said the most recent fish kill is a direct result of the lack of dissolved oxygen in the water.
“These forage fish getting herded by predatory fish into small areas is a natural occurrence,” he said, “but areas like Peconic River losing their oxygen every single night in the summertime is not a natural occurrence.”
LoBue said nitrogen pollution results from cesspools, septic systems, sewage and fertilizers. Some remediation efforts are under way, he said, but until nitrogen pollution is significantly reduced on Long Island, more fish kills can be expected.
LoBue said Suffolk County currently is “ground zero” for these types of incidents.
“Peconic River, Forge River, Northport Harbor – places where the daily cycle of high oxygen in the daytime and then very low at night – so, large schools of fish swim in – in the daytime, when things look great,” he said. “Then, the light switches off – and an unsafe place, very quickly, as it gets dark.”
LoBue said the same factors came into play in the loss of diamondback terrapins last month.
“Those turtles contained a toxin that’s produced by a harmful algal bloom,” he said. “The shellfish accumulate the toxin, and then the turtles eat the shellfish, and they die.”
LoBue said he is hopeful that a recent $5 million appropriation from Albany will be used to further reduce nitrogen pollution in the Peconic River and other Long Island bays.
PHOTO: Local scientists say a massive fish kill this weekend on Long Island is another signal that more needs to be done to curb nitrogen pollution in local bays. Photo credit: Stephan Beaumont/Red Vault Productions.
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