A Quiet Spring for Red Tide on Long Island

Red tide bloom locations on Long Island this spring | LICCRA image
Red tide bloom locations on Long Island this spring | LICCRA image

The cool weather we’ve been having this spring has kept the red tide’s paralytic toxins from closing any shellfish beds on Long Island, but there have still been red tide blooms in numerous locations across Long Island, according to the Long Island Coastal Conservation Research Alliance, the newly named program that works in conjunction with Stony Brook Southampton’s algae bloom experts.

According to LICCRA, red tide blooms have been reported on the East End in Meetinghouse Creek in Aquebogue, Weesuck Creek in East Quogue, the Forge River in Mastic, and, for the first time, in Moneybogue Pond in Westhampton.

Toxic red tides are caused by the algae Alexandrium, which produces a compound called saxitoxin, which is 100 times more potent than cyanide, according to LICCRA. Saxitoxin accumulates in filter-feeding shellfish, including oysters, mussels, clams and scallops, during the bloom season  from April through June. The blooms have historically been linked to both warm temperatures and high nitrogen levels in the bays.

“While the cold spring protected us against severe PSP, we still saw cell densities high enough to make shellfish toxic on the north shore, east end, and south shore of Long Island”, said Dr. Chris. Gobler, the Stony Brook Southampton professor who is an expert on East End algae blooms, in a press release issued Monday.

“These red tides are triggered by warm temperatures and hence things began late this year, keeping cell densities in the thousands of cells per liter, rather than tens of thousands,” he added. “In 2012, we experienced our warmest spring ever and more than 13,000 acres of shellfish beds were closed due to PSP. Given that climate scientists predict that we will see years more like 2012 than 2014 in the near future, we are likely to return to widespread PSP toxicity.”

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation monitors shellfish for toxins across Long Island, and only recorded small regions where Alexandrium densities exceeded their threshold of 1,000 cells per liter.

LICCRA reported yesterday that Alexandrium cell densities have declined to zero in all of the bloom locations this month as the red tide season has mostly passed, though the water temperature in Mattituck Creek, which has experienced red tides in the past, is still ideal for red tide growth.

Beth Young

Beth Young has been covering the East End since the 1990s. In her spare time, she runs around the block, tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at editor@eastendbeacon.com

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