Monday, September 18, 2006

Measuring Water Quality on Long Island Sound

Long Island Sound’s hypoxia crisis gets a complete and clear explanation in this Connecticut Post story, by Ed Crowder, which makes reference to Soundkeeper-Legislator Terry Backer’s boat trip this morning. Save it for future reference.

One interesting sign of how things have changed: in 1987, ’88 and ’89, when hypoxia was first being measured and described in a systematic way on the Sound, the policy was to not let reporters accompany the research vessels, because (as I remember it) there was so much interest it would be impossible to accommodate all the reporters, photographers and camera crews and still get the work done. Now it appears that all you have to do is call up and ask, and they’re happy to let you spend a long hot day watching them work. I’m glad reporters can get on the boat now. Unfortunately it also indicates that interest in the Sound has faded.

Oystering ... Over on the Hudson, people always say that because of pollution – mainly PCBs dumped by General Electric – the traditional fishermen were being put out of business and that, once they’re gone, fishing would be dead on the river. The first part of that is true – fishermen have been put out of business. But the second part never made sense to me. If the river gets cleaned up and the fishery reopened, why wouldn’t new fishermen learn the trade?

A similar situation is occurring on Long Island Sound. Oystering is an up and down business, peaking in the late 1800s, falling throughout the early decades of the 1900s because of pollution, overfishing, starfish and storms, and then rebounding somewhat into the 1990s, until oyster diseases (dermo and MSX) did serious damage. A recovery is underway again, drawing new people into the business (granted, in a small way).

Connecticut has granted 10 licenses for an oystering cultivation technique called upwelling, which lets oyster growers start their seed in a controlled environment, until they are big enough to try to survive in the wilds. One of those trying it is Jardar Nygaard, owner of a fish market in Cos Cob called Fjord Fisheries. The Greenwich Time has an interesting story about him and the upwelling method of raising oysters, here.

Big Black Birds ... The cormorant population is growing, fishermen blame them for the drop in the population of winter flounder, biologists say that’s an oversimplification. The Connecticut Post reports, you decide.

Whale ... If you were on Block Island last week, you could have seen this dead, 50-foot long finback whale, which washed up on Crescent Beach.


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