07/11/14 8:00am
07/11/2014 8:00 AM
Aquaculturist Bren Smith of Thimble Island Oyster Company in Connecticut is the first sugar kelp grower to cultivate the sea vegetable from Long Island Sound waters. He is working with food industry insiders, including expert chefs from New York City, and international supermarket chains to help drive market demand for domestically grown kelp products. (Credit: Bren Smith)

Aquaculturist Bren Smith of Thimble Island Oyster Company in Connecticut is the first sugar kelp grower to cultivate the sea vegetable from Long Island Sound waters. He is working with food industry insiders, including expert chefs from New York City, and international supermarket chains to help drive market demand for domestically grown kelp products. (Credit: Bren Smith)

It’s a delicacy Asian cultures have enjoyed for centuries but is more commonly thought of as the slippery — and sometimes slimy — brown stuff that grows naturally in area waters and then washes up on beaches.

And one day, it could be a major moneymaker for the North Fork.  (more…)

12/10/13 7:00am
12/10/2013 7:00 AM
CARRIE MILLER PHOTO | Scallops for sale at Southold Fish Market.

CARRIE MILLER PHOTO | Scallops for sale at Southold Fish Market.

This year’s scalloping season has area baymen working harder and residents paying more for those tasty, blue-eyed gems of the Peconic.

The cautious optimism that greeted the Nov. 4 opening day of the local Atlantic bay scallop season is no more, as those searching for and those selling the popular shellfish said the season is “worse” than most.

“It can take a half a day at least to get one [bushel],” said Ed Densieski of Riverhead. “My numbers are definitely off.”

While commercial baymen are permitted to harvest up to 10 bushels a day, Mr. Densieski said a full day’s work is only landing him two or three bushels at best.

Southold Baymen’s Association president Nathan Andruski said he was also seeing limited landings, catching about three or four bushels a day – depending on the weather.

While area fishermen are feeling the pressure out on the water, area residents are feeling it at the register.

The cost for a pound of Peconic bay scallops has ticked up from an initial $18 to the current cost of $21, said Southold Fish Market owner Charlie Manwaring.

“The price is definitely up,” Mr. Manwaring said.

But, he added, it’s better to buy scallops on this side of the bay rather than in the pricier “Hamptons” market.

“It is a lot cheaper on this side than it is on the South Fork,” Mr. Manwaring said.

A pound of scallops at Cor-J Seafood in Hampton Bays will run you $24.75, or $29.95 at Clamman Seafood Market in Southampton, according to sales associates at each location.

Mr. Manwaring said the quantity is “probably half of what we were doing last year — and the price last year was cheap because there were so many around,” he said. “I sell out every day.”

Ken Homan of Braun Seafood in Cutchogue said a pound of scallops cost just $12 about this time last year, adding that it has been difficult to freeze scallops to offer to customers year round.

“Last year at this time I had frozen over 6,000 pounds and this year I have only froze over a couple hundred,” he said, saying it might impact the availability later on.

The scalloping season ends on March 31.

cmiller@timesreview.com

09/13/13 2:29pm

AMANDA RILEY PHOTO | A water spout formed over Peconic Bay waters this afternoon.

North Fork residents said what appeared to be a waterspout formed over Peconic Bay waters Friday afternoon. And many took photos to prove it.

A spout is a whirling column of wind and mist that resembles a tornado, according to a National Weather Service description.

Joey Picca of the National Weather Service said a small storm cell was passing over the Riverhead and Mattituck area about 2 p.m.

Click below for more photos:

08/20/13 10:00am
08/20/2013 10:00 AM
Bill Portlock Courtesy Photo | Rust tide in the Peconic estuary last year.

BILL PORTLOCK COURTESY PHOTO | Rust tide in the Peconic estuary last year.

The harmful algal bloom known as rust tide has once again been detected in Peconic Bay waters — marking the 10th consecutive year the finfish and shellfish-harming algae has appeared in bay waters, according to Stony Brook University researchers.

The rust tide algae, known as Cochlodinium polykrikoides, can be lethal to marine life in levels above 500 cells per milliliter. The algae has not been found harmful to humans, however.

Densities recorded exceed 10,000 cells per milliliter in western areas of the Peconic Estuary , according to monitoring by The Gobler Laboratory at Stony Brook University’s School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences.

Densities exceeding 1,000 cells per milliliter were also present in Flanders Bay and tributaries, including Meetinghouse Creek in Aquebogue.

“The rust tide is expected to spread in the coming days and weeks and typically extends into the fall or until water temperatures drop below 60 degrees,” said Dr. Christoper Gobler, lead researcher at the lab.

Last fall, bay scallops in the Peconic Estuary declined “tenfold” in some regions during the rust tide, causing disappointment among baymen and scallop lovers alike, according to a Stony Brook release.

The impacts of this year’s bloom will likely depend on its duration, according to research officials.

Researchers have discovered the organism waits at the bottom of the bay emerging each summer to start a new bloom. At the end of the bloom, it turns into a cyst or seed, settling back on the bay’s bottom. This allows for the blooms to return each year, researchers said.

Researchers also found “nitrogen loading makes these blooms more intense and more toxic. As nitrogen loading has increased into our bays, these events have intensified,” Mr. Gobler said.

Experiments conducted in the Gobler Lab have demonstrated that this algae can kill fish in a matter of hours and shellfish over the course of a few days, according to the release.

cmiller@timesreview.com

06/25/13 3:00pm
06/25/2013 3:00 PM

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | DEC officials announce funding to repair a canoe launch in Riverhead.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation is designating millions of dollars in funding toward improving recreation areas and the North Fork is expected to reap the benefits.

In recognition of Great Outdoors Month New York, state Department of Environmental Conservation regional director Peter Scully announced $950,000 for outdoor recreation projects in Riverhead and Southold.

The funding derives from Governor Andrew Cuomo’s New York Works II program and the Environmental Protection Fund, which provides money for expanding and improving access for recreational activities on public lands.

Of the total funding, $750,000 will be used to repair the Peconic River dam and a canoe launch off of Edwards Avenue in Riverhead.

The remaining $200,000 will go toward designing a boat ramp at a public waterway access on Peconic Bay near the site of the former Old Barge restaurant just off Route 25 in Southold.

cmurray@timesreview.com

06/03/13 12:25pm
06/03/2013 12:25 PM
Suffolk Sheriff's new marine boat

COURTESY PHOTO | Marine 41 will be available to all East End marine units.

The Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office has purchased a custom-made, 41-foot emergency response ship equipped with high-tech features like side-scan sonar and forward-looking infrared cameras, allowing it to spy on bay and ocean bottoms and navigate through the night with the utmost confidence.

The vessel will be used by members of the East End Marine Task Force, established in 2007 to help coordinate marine units from across the East End. The task force includes sheriff’s deputies and U.S. Coast Guard officers. Marine law enforcement units from each of the five East End towns also signed a memorandum of agreement to share and standardize equipment and training.

The task force agreement allows participating personnel to cross town borders when needed, which “increases safety and keeps costs down,” said sheriff’s office’s marine unit commanding officer, Sgt. John Andrejack.

Sgt. Andrejack is tasked with overseeing and managing the new boat.

“I don’t know of any other vessels like this,” Sgt. Andrejack said.

The ship, Marine 41, is a C.B.R.N.E.-response vessel -— which stands for Chemical Biological Radiological Nuclear and Explosive — outfitted with radar, chart plotters and a dual-screen GPS. The boat is designed to be able to respond to a nuclear, chemical or biological attack or accident.

It’s powered by twin Cummins Diesel motors and does not have propellers. The boat is instead propelled by Hamilton Jets, which allow it to operate in very shallow water (less than three feet), officials said. The cabin air is always purified, with no outside air circulated inside. If the boat enters an area with hazardous smoke and fumes, there is constant clean air in the cabin, official said.

Marine 41 has firefighting capability with a water pump that can move 2,000 gallons a minute. It also comes with a 500-pound Davit winch to lift and recover things from the water.

“This is the most well-equipped response boat in the area,” said Sgt. Andrejack, who was involved in acquiring, designing and equipping the craft.

Officers on the task force from all different towns will crew the ship, he said.

“This vessel is crewed by multiple agencies, used for whatever town may need it for any large event,” Sgt. Andrejack explained, giveing the annual Maritime Festival in Greenport as one example. “It can be transferred from town to town when and where it is needed.”

The sheriff’s office was able to make the purchase using a $1.2 million Federal Emergency Management Agency Port Security Grant, officials said. The grant also allowed for the purchase of personal radiation protectors and 40 strong exposure suits that can be used to protect officers during severe storms or harsh winter weather, both to be distributed to members of the East End Marine Task Force.

The boat also came with a survival raft, EMT equipment and is able accommodate a patient on a backboard.

Marine 41 and all the on-board equipment cost $650,000.

A full-scale training exercise was recently performed on the boat. That simulation exercise, based on an actual recent event, involved a fishing vessel had dredged up hazardous material that the crew had to “decontaminate” before towing the vessel back to shore.

“A vessel of this capability was lacking in the region and the citizens of the East End deserve the capability and protection this asset provides,” Sgt. Andrejack said.

intern@timesreview.com

05/19/13 11:00am
05/19/2013 11:00 AM

TIM GANNON PHOTO | Joyce Conklin and Jim Miller(right) accept an award from the North Fork Environmental Council as Senator Ken LaValle praises the work of Mr. Miller and Ms. Conklin’s late husband, Bob.

The late Bob Conklin of Flanders and Jim Miller of Southold were honored as “Environmental Champions” by the North Fork Environmental Council on Thursday for their work establishing a fish passage at Grangebel Park.

The rock passage allows alewives and other fish to migrate from fresh to salt water, where they become food for other larger species like fluke, weakfish and striped bass.

Also honored was Kevin McAllister, the Peconic Baykeeper for the past 15 years, who received the “Richard Noncarrow Environmentalist of the Year” award.

The awards were handed out at the Suffolk Community College culinary school in downtown Riverhead.

The Peconic River, like many rivers in the late 1800s and early 1900s, was dammed up in spots to provide power for mills and other uses, cutting off the alewives’ migratory routes, which spawn in fresh water and migrate to salt water.

Mr. Conklin, a science teacher at Riverhead High School, initially would take his students down to the river to carry the alewives over the dam using nets.

But since this solution could only help a limited number of fish, Mr. Conklin in 2000 sought out the help of Mr. Miller, an environmental engineer and the founder of Miller Environmental in Calverton.

Mr. Miller helped set up an Alaskan Steep Pass, which was commonly called a fish ladder, and which helped the fish migrate over the dam from fresh water to salt water and back. But the fish ladder was only a temporary structure.

After a few years, they embarked on a plans to establish a permanent fish passage system at the Grangebel dam.

That system, which was aided by state and federal grants obtained by Riverhead Town, was completed in early 2011, just months after Mr. Conklin died in December 2010.

An estimated 50,000 to 70,000 alewives pass through the rock passageways, officials says. Eels also use the passageway.

The efforts of Mr. Conklin and others were featured on an episode of the television show, Lunkerville, in 2012, and that segment was shown Thursday night.

“It has reached a magnitude beyond our belief,” Mr. Miller said in the video. “We had fantasized that maybe some tens of thousand of fish could possibly migrate. We are now of the belief that it’s hundreds of thousands.  As they migrate out into the bay, they become primary foraging fish for the striped bass, the fluke and the weakfish, and those fish migrate out into the ocean, and the sharks and tuna will feed off the blue fish.

“It could actually impact the entire fisheries on the east coast of the United States.”

Mr. Conklin’s award was presented posthumously to his wife Joyce. She and Mr. Miller also were given proclamations by a number of elected officials.

Mr. Miller said Tim Griffing and Byron Young also should be recognized for their efforts in creating the fish passage. George Bartunek, who worked on the fish passage, said this was what Mr. Conklin loved to do.

TIM GANNON PHOTO | Peconic Baykeeper Kevin McAllister accepts an award from the North Fork Environmental Council at a reception in downtown Riverhead Thursday.

Mr. McAllister works for a private non-profit environmental organization called Peconic BayKeeper.

“He’s a man who has made a dramatic impact on our waterways,” said State Senator Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson), who said Mr. McAllister has highlighted the damage done to waterways by cesspools, and helped bring that issue to the forefront.

“The Peconic Bay is a resource people believed was infinite and no matter what we did to it, it would be still be there,” said South Fork state Assemblyman Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor). “We’ve found out now that is not the case.”

NFEC president Bill Toedter said Mr. McAllister has highlighted the fact that “what we do on land determines what happens with our waters.”

tgannon@timesreview.com

04/09/13 12:00pm
04/09/2013 12:00 PM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Baykeeper Kevin McAllister.

The North Fork Environmental Council will honor baykeeper Kevin McAllister as its environmentalist of the year during an awards ceremony in Riverhead next month.

The organization will give Mr. McAllister, who for 15 years has advocated for the health of the Peconic estuary system and its wildlife, with its Richard Noncarrow Environmentalist of the Year award on Thursday, May 16 at the Suffolk County Community College’s Culinary Arts Center in downtown Riverhead.

The NFEC says Mr. McAllister has worked over the past four years to show the connection between the health of the North Fork’s groundwater supplies and the health of its coastal waters.

“Kevin wears his passion on his sleeve, but it’s his work ethic, his dedication to doing what is right and his ability to challenge us to be better stewards of our lands and waters, of our future, which makes him stand head and shoulders above the rest,” Bill Toedter, NFEC president, said in a press release.

The organization will also name the late Bob Conklin, a former Riverhead science teacher, and Jim Miller, the founder of Miller Environmental, its Environmental Champions. Both were instrumental in the installation of a fish ladder allowing alewives, a herring-like fish, to return each year to their spawning grounds long blocked by the dam in Grangebel Park in Riverhead.

Information is available by calling 298-8880 or at nfec1.org.

tkelly@timesreview.com