Monday, March 10, 2008

Saturday's Long Island Sound Citizen's Summit

Save the Sound and the Long Island Sound Study held the annual Long Island Sound Citizens Summit on Saturday, at the Holiday Inn in Bridgeport. The theme was “The Long Island Sound Fishery: Flourishing or Floundering?” On the evaluation form included with the handouts, I rated it a 3 out of 5, which I’d characterize as “pretty good” but which the form characterized as “fair.” So be it. I've organized five conferences for the non-profit I work for and it's not the easiest thing in the world to do.

I said “pretty good,” rather than “good” or “great” because some of the speakers and panelists seemed to be under the impression that they could stand in front of a room of 150-plus people and wing it with their poorly-conceived Power Point slides. I have a great example from the conference of how Power Point makes for lame presentations, which I’ll write about later probably. But suffice it to say that if you’re going to talk to 150 people about a topic you know a lot about, and which they know something about and are interested in, you need to actually prepare cogent remarks – you should think about what points you want to make and then you should make them, with good examples. Your slides should illustrate your point; they can’t be your point.

Anyway. David Funkhouser from the Hartford Courant was the only reporter I saw there, and you can read his story, which is a fine summary, here.

I want to add just a few things that people said that stuck out in my mind.

Eric Smith, the director of the Connecticut DEP’s marine fisheries bureau, talked about a number of troubling signs in the Sound. The water seems to be clearer than normal, which probably indicates there are fewer phytoplankton, the estuary’s basic food source, he said. Lobster are dying again. And some species are way, way down in numbers. Winter flounder, for example, spawn and produce young but the young don’t make it past two years of age.

“The sound seems to be sick,” he said. “The question is why.”

But if the Sound is sick, it doesn’t seem to be showing up in the data that Penny Howell, a marine fisheries biologist who works for Smith, has been collecting.

She and her colleagues now have about 25 years worth of data on the abundance of 40 species (38 fish plus lobster and squid) in Long Island Sound and, she said, there is no long term trend – no great rise in overall abundance but no great fall either. Some species are down -- lobster and winter flounder – but they’ve been replaced in abundance by other species. One difference is that the species that tend to be here in the fall, including scup and butterfish, are now dominant. Since the water is warmer in fall than in spring, this indicates that warm water species are becoming more prevalent.

Smith said the Long Island Sound Study needs to put this on its research agenda.

One last thing: Dave Relyea, one of the owners of the Frank M. Flower & Sons oyster company, in Oyster Bay, brought with him oysters, ice and a shucker, and served them with lunch -- Pine Island oysters, they're called, and I've had them at a pretty good shellfish place in Mount Kisco. On Saturday they were amazingly good.
We were asked not to go crazy, to make sure there was some for everybody, so I had two with lunch and then, when lunch was over, went out to the serving area to see if any were left, and had two more. My estimate is that Relyea must have brought over about 600 oysters, and I was thoroughly impressed by the gesture.

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Anonymous Emmett Pepper said...

You aren't kidding. Those oysters were delicious! I am hoping that they become a tradition at future LIS Citizen Summits.

1:13 PM  

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