Friday, July 25, 2008
Thursday, July 24, 2008
Connecticut AG Blumenthal Wants a Commission to Oversee the Use of the Sound
The Tug at the Bottom of the Sound
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Sea Turtles Might Be Following the Jellyfish North Into Our Waters
Unfortunately some of them are turning up dead, like the leatherback found on Cuttyhunk the other day, and two others found elsewhere. Here's what the Cape Cod Times reported:
"It is a female, about 500 pounds, that was tagged from West Trinidad," said Bob Prescott, sanctuary director for the Massachusetts Audubon Society's Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary.
"We are trying to learn as much about it as we can."
Earlier this month:
Keith Kauppila found a dead leatherback washed up on the rocks in front of his house on Ricketson's Point in Dartmouth on the night of July 13. That came after a day of heavy surf produced by Hurricane Bertha.
Another leatherback was found on Popponesset Beach in Mashpee on July 3.
Three dead leatherbacks have also been found in Rhode Island.
There could be more of them nearby this year because they were pushed up the coast by Hurricane Bertha. Or it could be people are just seeing them more, wildlife officials say.
"We get called out 15 or 20 times a year to free turtles that get tangled in fishing gear," said Brian Sharp, a rescue associate with the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies.
"We are getting a lot of calls about turtles this year," said Prescott.
"The water is warm this year. It might be that. We are also told there are a lot of jellyfish (which the turtles eat) in the area. It might be that.
"But it does appear there are more leatherbacks than usual this year."
In Rhode Island and Connecticut, biologists from the Mystic Aquarium respond to calls of turtles in distress. There have been three dead loggerheads in Rhode Island in July.
"We are getting a few more calls, but not significantly more," said Cindy Davis, a stranding assistant with the Mystic Aquarium. "We get calls from July to October."
There's an excellent chance that some of these turtles, and others, will make their way into Long Island Sound (if they haven't already). Kemp's ridley sea turtles (which are much smaller than the 100 pounds the Cape Cod Times story says they are) are fairly common in the Sound and Peconic Bay, in late summer and fall, and 20-some years ago I wrote about a dead green turtle that had washed ashore in Rye. Here's everything I've blogged about sea turtles.
I found this, by the way, thanks to Chris Zurcher.
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
No Decision Last Night on Long Beach West Sale
Why Are There So Many Jellyfish in the Sound, the Hudson, the Atlantic?
Here's the Times story, and here are some excerpts:
Kenneth W. Able, director of the Rutgers University Marine Field Station in Tuckerton, N.J., said the early arrival could have something to do with recent winds from the south that blew away the sea’s warmer surface water, allowing an upwelling of cold water, which the lion’s mane loves.
Edward Enos, the superintendent of the Aquatic Resources Division for the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Mass., said conditions may have been perfect for an unusual number of baby jellyfish, called polyps, to survive.
“It’s nature,” Mr. Enos said. “It’s like some years you have beautiful, big blooms of dandelions in your yard, and sometimes not.”...
Jim Gilmore, director of marine resources for the State Department of Environmental Conservation, said that last Friday he started receiving calls about jellyfish. On Monday, he got a lot. Most years he doesn’t get jellyfish reports until August, he said.
John Lipscomb, a patrol boat operator for the Hudson Riverkeeper, an environmental group, said he saw a lion’s mane in the Harlem River for the first time last Monday. It was floating in a slew of garbage in the river.
“I looked over and in this massive soup of trash and debris was this beautiful pulsating jellyfish,” he said.
John Waldman, a professor of biology at Queens College, said that jellyfish may have moved upriver because of a lack of rain this year, which has pushed the salt water further upstream....
Mr. Grant, of the Sandy Hook Ocean Institute, said he first noticed them in April when young jellyfish the size of golf balls were turning up in fishing nets.
“This is a banner year if you like the look of jellyfish,” he said on Saturday afternoon after having netted a specimen, six inches in diameter, in the Atlantic Highlands Municipal Marina.
Born in cold northern waters, the lion’s mane drifts south with ocean currents and turns rust-colored from the algae and zooplankton it eats, Mr. Grant said. Already there have been nuisance complaints about them in Rhode Island in April and in Connecticut this month. In New York, the Department of Environmental Conservation said Monday that no beaches had been closed but some, including Robert Moses, Crab Meadow and West Neck, all on Long Island, had posted jellyfish advisories....
Mr. Grant hypothesized that more nutrients in the water, a result of sewage, rainwater runoff and fertilizers from the growing population in the Northeast, may have created more “jellyfish food.” He added that in 25 years of researching the waters around Sandy Hook, he had seen jellyfish populations cycle about every five years.
The jellyfish will likely be around through September, when they reach the end of their life cycle, Mr. Grant said.
Monday, July 21, 2008
The V-Notch Program is Protecting the Sound's Female Lobsters
The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission has planned to increase the size of lobsters that can be taken legally, by 1-16th of an inch, starting August 1. But because the v-notch program has been more effective than thought, the commission postponed the increase, according to this report:
A program aimed at restoring the lobster population in Long Island Sound is working well enough to keep the current minimum legal size for lobsters taken by fishermen, environmental protection officials said Monday.
The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission had planned to increase the current size by 1/16 of an inch on Aug. 1. But that will be held off for at least one year because of the V-notch program, where the tails of mature female lobsters have a "v" cut into them before they're released back into the water.
The mark protects them from harvest for about two years, giving them time to grow and reproduce.
Fishermen from Connecticut and New York returned the equivalent of more than 58,000 mature female lobsters between December 2007 and July 2008. That's more than 100 percent of the goal established for the first year of the program.
Stratford Might Kill Long Beach Deal Tonight
I am sure that a threat by the Stratford Town Council to kill the deal tonight is way too hasty and sounds more like a way for disgruntled council members to show the mayor who's boss rather than a rational decision.
The feds will pay $10 million for the beach. The state will help pay to remove the cottages. There's a public hearing scheduled for Thursday (which of course will be moot depending on what happens tonight.
Audubon Connecticut is trying to get proponents of the sale to show up in Stratford tonight, at 6:30, for the council meeting, which is in Town Hall. The Connecticut Coastal Access Guide has some information about the beach, here.
Sunday, July 20, 2008
Jellyfish As Big As a Personal Pizza
It was plump and as wide as a small pizza, a billowing cloud of royal purples and reds, pulling a 2-foot-long mass of dancing tendrils behind it.
For a stinging jellyfish, that's bigger than I'd want to encounter while swimming.
Perhaps it's because Newsday has been writing about it a lot, but it seems as if most of the jellyfish sightings in the Sound this year are off the north shore of Long Island. Are Connecticut beaches as afflicted?
Saturday, July 19, 2008
Long Island Sound's Jellyfish
Lion's Mane: Cyanea capillata
"The world's largest jellyfish. Typically to 12 in. ... but can reach 8 ft. ... Most specimens south of Cape Hatteras are small (5 in. ...), but individuals increase in size in North Atlantic. A classic jellyfish, ranging in color from brownish to pink. Extremely long tentacles and massive cascading group of mouth lobes. Range: North Atlantic to Carolinas."
Moon jelly: Aurelia aurita
"Familiar jellyfish of bays, sounds and inland waters. Bell edge rimmed by short fringe of tentacles. Prey captured in mucilaginous cap and 'cleared off' for ingestion by elongate mouth arms that drape below. Easily identified by distinct shamrock appearance of gonads seen through transprent cap. Range: Extreme northern Greenland to Caribbean. Size: To 10 in..."
Ctenophores, or Comb Jellies:
"Often mistaken for jellyfish. However, comb jellies do not sting, have two tentacles or lobes below their sac-like body, and have up to eight comb-like ciliary plates. Gelatinous and fragile, they turn into nondescript blobs out of water. All are plankters (drifters with little self-locomotion) and can amass in large swarms. They are predators of small fish and fish eggs. Note: when viewing comb jellies, look for pinkish worm-like forms in the gut region. These are the parastic young of the Burrowing Anemone..." (I'll be sure to do that, as soon as I finish looking at the moon jelly's gonads.)
I think the Lion's Mane is the only one that stings and although it can grow to eight feet in size, it doesn't come close to that in our area. Jellyfish (as opposed to comb jellies) can swim, so technically they're not zooplankton, which drift with the currents and tides.
The photos are from here and here, on Flickr.
Jellyfish in the Sound: They Are Out of Control and Won't Go Away
John Ryan, chief lifeguard for the Town of East Hampton, said "it's pretty bad on the bay side, especially for this time of year. They've been here for the past month. We give swim lessons and the instructors are all getting stung." ...
Vinny Guido, 18, of Rocky Point, who has been a lifeguard for three years at Cedar Beach in Mount Sinai, said "they are out of control and won't go away." [editor's question: There's really a lifeguard on Long Island named "Vinny Guido"? You're not making that up?]
He estimates about 30 people a day are treated for stings, up from none to one or two a day at this time last year. People who have a strong allergic reaction may be paralyzed or die.
Larry Penny, East Hampton Town natural resources director, said "this is the worst we've seen it in 10 or 15 years in the Peconic Bay Estuary. Mostly they're lion's mane jellyfish."
George Gorman Jr., deputy regional director for Long Island state parks, said there had been an unusual concentration of jellyfish over the weekend and through Tuesday at Sunken Meadow State Park on Long Island Sound and a number of people were stung. "Usually we see them at the end of August or September when the water temperature is higher."
All this is from a Newsday story, here, which also quotes a University of Rhode Island scientist saying what scientists always say (probably because it's true and they are cautious by training): we don't know what's causing it. It could be warmer waters caused by global warming; it could be because larger predators have been overfished; it could be because of pollution; it could be because of shifts in weather patterns. It could easily be all those things combined. Again, from Newsday:
Hofstra adjunct assistant biology professor Nicolai Konow said "I would presume it has to do with human intervention and ecosystem imbalance. It could be nutrient runoff and it could be a direct result of imbalance in the food chain due to overfishing of the natural predators of the jellyfish."
"We've seen this before," Klos said, "and I'm sure we'll see it again."
Friday, July 18, 2008
Miles from the Sound, Yellow-Crowned Night Herons are Nesting in Downtown Mount Vernon
I was skeptical, although I didn't tell him. Nesting black-crowned night herons aren't that rare near Long Island Sound, but the only nesting occurrence of yellow-crowneds that I knew of was more than 20 years ago, at Marshlands Conservancy, in Rye, and that nest failed when great-horned owls ate the young. I told Bill about the Marshlands birds and referred him to Tom Burke, who birds at Marshlands almost every day.
Mount Vernon is the most densely populated city in New York State, and it's not on Long Island Sound. So what Bill learned, from Tom and others, is pretty amazing. There's not just one yellow-crowned night heron nest in downtown Mount Vernon, but three -- a rookery, in other words. Bill wrote:
These colorful, shellfish-eating herons have created a rookery to raise their young in three stick nests spread across three adjoining sycamore trees along a residential block of South Fifth Avenue. They've been nesting for about a month, neighbors said yesterday. This is the third year the herons have made a home on the block, Carmen Grant said, but this marks the first year they've had babies.
It's a terrific story, and a reminder that a lot of unexected and fantastic things can happen in the natural world. Read it here.
Thursday, July 17, 2008
Today, Appelbome writes about driving 55 miles per hour.
The experts say that fuel efficiency deteriorates radically at speeds above 60 miles per hour. Every 5 miles over that threshold is estimated to cost drivers, Mr. Warner said in his letter, “essentially an additional 30 cents per gallon in fuel costs.”
Yesterday I added a comment to a thread of comments on this post, in which I referred to this website, which says:
Aggressive driving (speeding, rapid acceleration and braking) wastes gas. It can lower your gas mileage by 33 percent at highway speeds and by 5 percent around town.
... While each vehicle reaches its optimal fuel economy at a different speed (or range of speeds), gas mileage usually decreases rapidly at speeds above 60 mph.
You can assume that each 5 mph you drive over 60 mph is like paying an additional $0.30 per gallon for gas....
That's based on gas costing $4.08 per gallon, by the way.
Appelbome goes on to quote a handful of people saying, essentially, that to get them to drive 55, you'd have to pry the steering wheel from their cold, dead fingers:
“It’s unrealistic,” said Darren Jacobs, an engineer from Grantham, N.H., who was driving home from Macungie, Pa. That is a trip of 412 miles, or 6 hours and 47 minutes, according to MapQuest. So assuming 25 miles per gallon, driving at 55 would likely cost 40 minutes and save at least $7. He figured he’d spend the money.
“It’s too slow,” Mr. Jacobs said. “It’s not the way we live. Everything is fast. We eat fast food. We have high-speed Internet. If you’re going from Point A to Point B you want to get there as soon as you can. I don’t think the solution is making us go slower. It’s getting tough on the greedy people who are profiting from this.”
Pete Boucheron, a retiree from Schenectady, N.Y., said, yeah, there’s some logic to 55, but it might have more appeal if prices got really high, say $6 or $7 a gallon. Gustavo Cardenas said he was for it — but then, he’s from Montreal.
Of course this is both baloney and true -- baloney in that all they have to do to change, is change; true in that as long as everyone else is driving 70, they will too.
I think a 55 mile an hour law probably would be a good thing (and of course the speed limit on a lot of roads still is 55 miles per hour).I also continue to believe that a pervasive and clever public service campaign that emphasizes both the amount of money you can save and the amount of greenhouse gases you can avoid emitting would be effective. It's worth a try.
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Long Island Sound Jellyfish
This map shows the places in Long Island Sound where they trawl for zooplankton, and which kids of jellyfish they find at each place. Out east, they get moon jellies; in the far west they get ctenophores (comb jellies); in between they get lion’s mane jellies and ctenophores.
When they catch these animals – gelatinous forms is the general phrase they use – they measure the volume. This chart shows that there are a lot more gelatinous forms the further west you go, and that 2006 was a big year for them. Last year, as we reported, there were virtually none.
This third chart – the 3D one – seems to show that there are fewer jellies now than there were five or six years ago, although I admit I have a hard time reading it.
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Long Island Sound Might Be Turning Into Chesapeake Bay Right Now, If Crab-Catching Fishermen Are To Be Believed
No Clams from Long Island's Great South Bay
Friday, July 11, 2008
Greg Amy of Middletown, a member of the National Motorists Association, can't imagine Connecticut drivers ambling along at 55 on a clear stretch of highway.
"People don't obey these artificial speed limits. ... All it's going to do is make criminals out of people driving safely to where they're going," he said.
While Amy said "nobody will dispute with you reasonably" that slower speeds save fuel, "people are not going to drive (55 mph) so ergo it doesn't work."
I love his reasoning: People won't drive 55 miles per hour because people won't drive 55 miles per hour.
Of course just because I think it's something we can achieve doesn't mean I think it's something that will be easy to achieve. But people have come close to giving up cigarettes because as a society we've been convinced that it's bad. We can do the same when it comes to driving slower as a way to cut greenhouse gasses.
By the way, don't forget to sign up for Chris Zurcher's Connecticut Environmental Headlines (which is where I found the Register story; Chris has been taking some days off lately, which makes it harder for me to blog, so if you sign up it will encourage him to keep going)>
Wednesday, July 09, 2008
Jellyfish: Last Year There Were None, This Year They're Here Early
People rarely swim in Chesapeake Bay, if my increasingly faulty memory is to be trusted, because there are too many jellies. And today there's a Stamford Advocate story about how swimmers are reporting that jellies have arrived earlier in the summer than usual.
Keep in mind though that it was just last year that observers were wondering why the Sound was relatively jellyfish-free until October (here and here).
Monday, July 07, 2008
Climate Change Might Be Turning Us Into Chesapeake Bay
Fifty of years of data from weekly trawls by fisheries biologists at the
Science Daily reported the other day that the URI scientists have documented a clear, long-term shift in the species that inhabit not just Narragansett Bay but the nearby waters of the
It’s the same kind of shift the Connecticut DEP biologists have seen over 25 years in Long Island Sound. And just as in the Sound, the URI biologists attribute the change to global warming. It was discussed at the Long Island Sound Citizen Summits in 2006 (which I wrote about here) and again in 2008 (read it here).
Here are some excerpts from Science Daily:
According to Jeremy Collie, professor of oceanography at the University of Rhode Island's Graduate School of Oceanography, the fish community has shifted progressively from vertebrate species (fish) to invertebrates (lobsters, crabs and squid) and from benthic or demersal species -- those that feed on the bottom -- to pelagic species that feed higher in the water column. In addition, smaller, warm-water species have increased while larger, cool-water species have declined.
"This is a pretty dramatic change, and it's a pattern that is being seen in other ecosystems, including offshore on
Collie said that while most of the changes occurred slowly, an abrupt change appeared to take place in 1980 and 1981 when benthic species like winter flounder and silver hake declined and pelagic species including butterfish and bluefish increased. …
… he believes that climate is "the dominant signal." Sea surface temperature in the area of the trawls has increased by 2 degrees Centigrade since 1959, and the preferred temperature of the fish caught in the trawls has also increased by 2 degrees C.
"That seems to be direct evidence of global warming," he said. "It's hard to explain any other way." …
What do these changes mean for the future of
"Our overall prediction is that Narragansett Bay is soon going to resemble estuaries to the south of us -- Delaware Bay,
The Science Daily article is here.
I have no idea if becoming more like Chesapeake Bay is a good thing or a bad thing. I do remember, though, that I've been told more than once that people don't swim in the Chesapeake because there are too many jellyfish. Coincidentally there's a talk tomorrow afternoon at Yale by Dr. Richard Brodeur, of NOAA's
It’s at 1 p.m. in room 102 of the
Thursday, July 03, 2008
Is Anyone Catching Lobsters With Notches In Their Tails?
Under the program, when lobstermen catch female lobsters, they cut a v-shaped notch in the tail, throw the lobster back, and turn in the notch to collect a $3.75 payment. If they catch a lobster with a v-notch already cut in its tail, it can't be sold and they are required by law to throw it back, thus giving the lobster extra time to lay eggs.
For this program to mean anything, lobstermen have to be catching lobsters with notches. If they're not catching them, then it doesn't make sense to go through the expense and effort of notching them -- because they're not being caught anyway.
So my questions are: Are lobstermen catching and releasing lobsters with notches in their tail? And are they and the government regulators overseeing the project keeping track of this?
This otherwise worthwhile story about the program and its problems, in the Stamford Times, doesn't raise those questions, and neither do any of the other stories I've read about it.
Call the Coast Guard! Ferry Collides with Coast Guard Cutter
Shortly before the collision, John Daveau said he heard the ferry sounding its horn and felt the ferry trying to slow. Then he saw the Coast Guard vessel cutting across the bow of the ferry. He said the ferry hit the cutter in the stern.
It was a bump “like hitting a dock,” said Daveau, who was sitting near the bow. “People started running for lifejackets. All the kids put on lifejackets.”
His wife, Michelle, said, “It took 20 years off my life.”
Brad Barco, 28, of West Greenwich, said he was riding on the top, outside level of the ferry close to the front with his girlfriend. He said the fog was thick and the ferry captain was blowing his horn every five minutes when they saw the Coast Guard cutter appear about 100 feet off the left of the ferry.
Barco said both ships tried to avoid an impact and were able to slow down quite a bit before they collided.
“I knew we weren’t going to be able to stop. I was like, ‘We’re going to hit this thing.’ And then it got closer, closer, closer. They started honking their horns back and forth. And before we knew it, we made impact,” he said.
John Austin, of Greenfield, Mass., was also aboard the ferry when it was hit, on the upper deck on the starboard side.
In a phone conversation with projo.com as he returned home on another ferry later yesterday, he said that the Coast Guard vessel “just appeared right out of the mist in front of us.”
“It took a few seconds for contact –– it was like everything was in slow motion,” he said, before the collision, which he described as “one glancing blow.” The ferry then glided to a stop.
The Providence Journal story is here. (You'll have to bear with me. It's summer and I'm as usual looking ahead to a couple of weeks on BI, so I'll be more inclinded to blog about things that will have very little interest to people interested in Long Island Sound.)
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