Peconic Baykeeper: Some fish populations grow, others flounder

BETH YOUNG FILE PHOTO | Fishermen on the prowl for scallops in Orient Harbor on opening day of the current season.

Flukes and porgies are making a comeback in the Peconic Bays, and blowfish, once a rare sight here, have returned to the Peconic Estuary, says Peconic Baykeeper Kevin McAllister.

Mr. McAllister made the announcement in his annual report on the health of the bays, “Baywatch 2011,” released on Wednesday.

He cautioned, though, that the Great South, Moriches, Quantuck and Shinnecock bays were classified as impaired waters, due to reoccurring brown tide blooms which he attributed to excess nitrogen from residential sewage systems.

In recent years, Mr. McAllister has been leading the charge to enact proactive measures to restrict the amount of nitrogen released into ground and surface waters.

In the report, Mr. McAllister says that there has been some encouraging news this year on the health of eelgrass beds, as scientists from Cornell Cooperative Extension work on restoration efforts at Cedar Point in Southold and Orient Point.

Mr. McAllister also praised the recent completion of a fish ladder in Riverhead’s Grangebel Park, which opened 24 acres of spawning ground. He estimated that 50,000 alewives passed through the fish ladder this spring. He also said scallop and clam populations in the Peconic Estuary seem to be on the rise.

On the negative side,the report states that winter flounder stocks are at an all-time low, and weakfish, blackfish, butterfish and Atlantic menhaden are struggling. Bacterial pollution in the water is an ongoing issue, as are the threats of recurring algae blooms.

“Clean water should be a right, not a privilege,”  Mr. McAllister said in an email accompanying the Baywatch report. “We must act now to reverse the environmental degradation of the past and promote new strategies and policies to protect water quality by strengthening clean water laws and holding polluters accountable.”

The full report is available here:

Baywatch 2011: Peconic Baykeeper’s Annual Report

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