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Toxic Seaweed Entrenched In Long Island Waters

Seth Wenig
The Great South Bay as seen from Bay Shore, New York. A new, invasive seaweed found in the bay and other Long Island bodies of water may accelerate fish die-offs this year.

A new species of toxic seaweed has taken root in some Long Island bays.

The seaweed is an invasive red algae from the Pacific Ocean. It’s harmless while alive, but it releases chemicals when it decays that can be deadly to juvenile fish and shellfish. 

Stony Brook researcher Chris Gobler has studied the seaweed for the past three years. He says it’s unclear how it will affect fish die-offs this year.

“We’ve found the seaweed from as far west as say Bayshore, as far east as Southampton on the South Shore. But we don’t really have a perfect sense of how widely distributed it is. We know it’s all over Great South Bay, we also know that, but it’s hard to say what to expect for this year.” 

The seaweed grows throughout the year and tends to decay between July and September. 

Gobbler says the widespread growth of the seaweed was only discovered last fall. It thrives on nitrogen pollution from fertilizers and old septic systems.

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