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Brown Tide Breaking Up; Inlets Clear Up First and Fastest

Stony Brook, NY, July 23rd 2013 – The harmful brown tide that has plagued various sites across the south shore of Long Island since the spring is in its final throes. The 2013 brown tide began in the Shinnecock and Moriches Bay in May, and then erupted in late June in Great South Bay following unusually heavy rainfall in the beginning of that month. A survey through Long Island’s South Shore Estuary Reserve from Southampton to Bay Shore performed by The Gobler Laboratory of Stony Brook University has revealed that a during the week of July 15th, cell densities had declined from millions to tens of thousands of cells per milliliter compared to the start of the month. Sites located near the Shinnecock, Moriches, and New Inlet in Great South Bay had the lowest abundances (< 10,000 cells per millimeter) while some regions in central and western Great South Bay still had more than 100,000 cells per millimeter. Densities above 50,000 cells per milliliter can be harmful to marine life. The brown tide alga, Aureococcus anophagefferens, has been notorious on Long Island since it first appeared in 1985 having been responsible for the demise of the largest bay scallop fishery on the US east coast in the Peconic Estuary, the loss of eelgrass across Long Island, and the inhibition of hard clam recovery efforts in Great South Bay. This year marked the seventh consecutive year these destructive blooms have occurred in the Moriches and Shinnecock Bay but the first event in Great South Bay since 2008.

“The heatwave of the past two weeks has warmed the south shore bays to more than 80°F, a temperature the brown tide cannot tolerate”, said Christopher Gobler, Professor of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences at Stony Brook University, “Importantly, regions in closest proximity to ocean inlets, including the new Great South Bay inlet, are getting down to levels of brown tide that are not harmful the fastest. The singular exception is the Fire Island Inlet which, due to its long channel, does not seem to flush the Bay as effectively as other ocean inlets.”

Gobler further commented that the brown tide should remain at low levels for the remainder of the summer, but could return in the fall when the bays cool down to ~70°F.

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