Return of brown tide could mean trouble for shellfish population

The record rainfall in August not only flooded homes and streets, it also helped to bring back brown tide in Long Island's waters.



Experts say nitrogen pollution from septic tanks and fertilizers is to blame. Back in 1985, when the brown tide first appeared on Long Island, it decimated the shellfish population.



"We know once it gets above 50,000 cells per milliliter, it will have a negative effect on clams. Now, we're at 500,000," said Christopher Gobler, of the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences.



He says brown tides used to happen in the spring and summer, but fall algae blooms are becoming more and more common. The timing is a big problem because brown tide affects the growth of young clams and also impacts the reproduction of adult clams.



Gobler says that while there are efforts underway to minimize nitrogen pollution in the waters, nothing is a quick fix to the problem.



"We can only hope it goes away sometime soon," says Gobler.


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