Warmer Oceans Increase Likelihood Of Toxic Shellfish, Study Finds
Thanks for the poison lobster, El Niño.
By Ryan Grenoble
01/11/2017 03:33 pm ET
The neurotoxin domoic acid inspired Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds” after hundreds of sooty shearwaters ingested the poison in the summer of 1961 and, well, lost their minds.
The crazed birds likely consumed domoic acid via small fish like anchovies and sardines.
It also tends to collect in shellfish, like clams, crabs and lobsters. And, according to a study published Tuesday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, it may become more prevalent as oceans warm, threatening birds and humans alike.
Researchers at Oregon State University, the University of Oregon, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife studied the prevalence of domoic acid over the past 20 years in the Pacific Northwest, and found it strongly correlated with water temperatures that are warmer than normal.
For now, warmer waters typically stem from events like El Niño and a decades-long climate cycle called “Pacific decadal oscillation,” the study found. It isn’t yet clear how climate change, which also warms the oceans, might affect the toxin’s prevalence.
“When water’s unusually warm off our coast, it’s because the circulation and patterns in the atmosphere has changed, bringing warm water from elsewhere — and this is happening at the same time that we also see high domoic acid in shellfish,” Morgaine McKibben, a doctoral student at Oregon State and the study’s lead author, told E&E News.
The migratory striped bass have returned to New York Harbor. More and more are swimming around.
Every spring, migratory species of stripers swim north from wintering areas in the deeper waters off Virginia and North Carolina. The fish are seeking to spawn in well-established sites, and seeking to feed off some tasty herring and shad. It takes a lot of energy to migrate and reproduce. All this liveliness makes stripers hungry.
Striped bass are anadromous, migrating to freshwater from the sea to spawn. Around seventy-five percent of striped bass spawn around the rivers that flow into the Chesapeake Bay. Both the Hudson River and Delaware River also play significant roles for producing future generations of striped bass. Once the spawning cycle has been completed, adult stripers swim out of the rivers and gather around beaches for a while until coastal waters warm. Then the fish begin another migration farther north to New England and sometimes as far north as the Penobscot River in Maine to feed. Great fishing all the way!
Striped bass are a very important sport fish in New York Harbor. They are the unofficial fish of the harbor.
Perhaps it’s time to try your luck at fishing for one. The best time to fish for striped bass in New York Harbor is usually the last week of April and first couple of weeks of May - more or less depending on weather conditions.
A dead whale that washed up on Monmouth Beach, NJ in July 2009
Officials said whales have been found with blunt-force injuries, possibly caused by collisions with ships.
Humpback whales are dying in unusually high numbers off of the Atlantic coast, from Maine to North Carolina, and the federal government is asking the public to report any more sightings of whales.
Federal officials reported last week that 41 whales have died in the past 15 months in what marine scientists coin an “unusual mortality event.” While there are theories for the deaths, officials at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said a solid explanation has not been found.
Officials said whales have been found with blunt-force injuries, possibly caused by collisions with ships.
NOAA’s data says that approximately eight humpback whales are stranded each year. Unusual mortality events are rare and are defined as “a stranding that is unexpected, involves a significant die-off of any marine mammal population, and demands immediate response,” by the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
The public can help report sightings of stranded or dead floating whales to regional numbers listed on NOAA’s website.
You better hurry if you wish to spot some migratory shorebirds this spring along the edge of New York Harbor. They come and go quickly, and it’s getting ever more difficult to see large flocks of these long-distance travelling birds every year.
Towards the end of April and all through May and early June, migratory shorebirds are on the move, traveling thousands of miles from South America, Cuba, the Caribbean, Mexico or the Gulf of Mexico to breeding grounds in the northern hemisphere, as far north as the high Arctic for some species.
They migrate with the moon, sun, stars, and other natural features to guide them on a long winged journey from one continent to another, from one hemisphere to another, in an eternal quest to breed, raise a family, and keep the species alive. Peter Matthiessen, the famous nature writer and world traveler called these feathery migrants “the wind birds” for their beautiful restlessness behavior to be always on the move and flying with the wind.
Over a dozen “wind birds” visit New York Harbor each year, including black-bellied plovers, semipalmated plovers, ruddy turnstones, least sandpipers, and dunlins. They come in all shapes, sizes, and colors, some as small as your hand, a number with bright chestnut hues or with bold patterns of black, white or ruddy feathers.
Migratory shorebirds carry out some of the most unbelievable voyages in the natural world, spanning the globe in a north-south direction. The red knot, for example, migrates each year from the tip of South America, Tierra del Fuego, to the tundra where they breed during the short Arctic summer. It’s a journey over 9,000 miles from south to north every spring, making this small bird one of the longest distance migrants in the animal kingdom.
Every spring these travelling shorebirds make a leap of faith, optimistic they will find well-established natural places to rest and feed. Not all do. Human populations have been expanding towards coastal areas for decades, increasing shoreline development and modifying what was once important foraging and staging areas along migration routes.
In order to survive such a perilous journey the birds must pack on pounds and increase their body weight by up to 70 percent to build sufficient energy reserves to continue flying long distances through harsh weather conditions to northern breeding grounds. Not every bird will make it, but hopefully most will.
In New York Harbor, the birds are increasingly hard to find. Lots of local beaches are empty or nearly vacant of different species of sandpipers and plovers. In recent years, it’s increasingly difficult to see scores of dunlins, least sandpipers, yellowlegs, dowitchers, and other shorebirds. Thankfully, reduced numbers can still be discovered in certain places throughout the harbor, including at Sandy Hook, Breezy Point, and Jamaica Bay, all parks managed by the National Park Service.
On a cloudy and cool Sunday afternoon, the last day of April, I spotted a lone female Baltimore oriole at my bird feeder. It was taking a few sips of sugar water from the hummingbird feeder.
Unlike many other songbirds in the east that eat seeds, the diet of the Baltimore oriole is strictly devoted to nectar, berries, bugs, and beetles, and other small invertebrates, including grasshoppers and caterpillars. Maybe even an occasional snail or spider.
The poor thing must have been hungry. After a winter spent feeding among the summery open woodlands, gardens, and shade-grown coffee plantations of South America or Mexico, the little bird has just endured a long winged migration through harsh storms and biting cold winds to land along the forest’s edge near New York Harbor. What would cause an oriole to leave somewhere hot and sunny to be someplace shivery and squally?
Late April is usually when the first migrants of orioles start to return to New York Harbor. Frequently, if everything is timed out perfectly, the birds arrive just as many flowering fruit trees, such as cherries, pears, plums, and apples come into bloom.
Baltimore orioles fly all the way from the tropics to land around New York Harbor every spring to raise a family. This common warm-weather resident leaves the warmth of the tropics where food resources are competitive, predators are numerous, and diseases and parasites are abundant, to take advantage of burgeoning insect populations, budding plants and fruits, and an abundance of nesting locations from wide open parklands including Central Park and Prospect Park to many open woods and trees in neighboring towns. A good place to lay and incubate 3 to 7 eggs.
Although Baltimore orioles are frequent summer renters around New York Harbor, this brightly colored songbird is often heard, but not seen by people, since the birds prefer to nest and feed high up in tall deciduous trees. And what a nest they make! Look up now and then to see if you can discover a peculiar nest that is a tightly woven six-inch long pouch-like structure hanging from a tree made from grasses, string, plant fibers, and moss. A true avian architectural masterpiece.
Do you want to try to attract a few migrating Baltimore orioles to your backyard this May? Try putting out an orange out in the open. Cut it in half so the insides are up. You can also offer grape jelly. Orioles seem to love grape jelly and will eat it daily. Don't make the jelly pile too deep though.
According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the oldest recorded Baltimore oriole was over 12 years old when it was caught and killed by a raptor in Minnesota. Baltimore Orioles got their name from their bold orange-and-black plumage: they sport the same colors as the heraldic crest of England’s Baltimore family (who also gave their name to Maryland’s largest city).
Living Breakwaters project: Can it protect us from future storms?
Updated on March 23, 2017 at 12:45 PM
Posted on March 23, 2017 at 6:00 AM
BY SUSAN LUNNY KEAG
By June 2018, construction is expected to begin on the project, which would not be possible, Zablocki said, without the help of the Billion Oyster Project, the Tottenville Civic Association, the Tottenville Historical Society, the NY/NJ Baykeeper and the city Parks Department.
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- When Hurricane Sandy hit the borough in October 2012, it took the lives of 24 Staten Islanders, demolishing homes and businesses, due largely to the storm's surge.
While communities like Dongan Hills, Midland Beach, Oakwood Beach, Ocean Breeze and South Beach were all devastated, Tottenville -- located at the southernmost point of Staten Island -- experienced some of the most destructive waves.
A year later, The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) launched a competition -- Rebuild by Design (RBD) -- to respond to Sandy's devastation in the northeast region of the United States.
In June 2014, following a year-long, community-based design process in which the design teams met regional experts from elected officials to local groups and individuals, HUD announced the winning proposals. The Staten Island Living Breakwaters Project was one of them.
The project was awarded $60 million of Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery funds to implement Living Breakwaters. The project is located in the waters of Raritan Bay, along the shoreline of Tottenville and Conference House Park.
"The breakwaters are engineered in a way to attenuate waves that are coming primarily from the southwest direction," said Alex Zablocki, senior program manager and RBD Living Breakwaters Project Manager, Governor's Office of Storm Recovery. "So it's meant to break down the wave action for storms like Sandy or lower level storms we've seen in Irene or other tropical storms or nor'easters, and prevent erosion and help rebuild the shoreline's sand."
STOP THE WILLIAMS FRACKED GAS PIPELINE THROUGH NY HARBOR!
MY TOP 5 FAVORITE BOOKS ABOUT NY HARBOR
1. Field Guide to the Neighborhood Birds of New York City by Leslie Day
2.Heartbeats in the Muck by John Waldman
3. The Fisheries of Raritan Bay by Clyde L. MacKenzie Jr.
4. Waterfront: A Walk Around Manhattan by Phillip Lopate
5. The Bottom of the Harbor by Joseph Mitchell