09/18/12 8:00am
09/18/2012 8:00 AM

KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO | Divers worked in Greenport Harbor by Claudio’s Restaurant Monday setting up for Tuesday’s unusual Air National Guard ‘rodeo.’

Seven teams of Air National Guard rescue squad members will show off their considerable skills Tuesday during an unusual “rodeo” involving an unusual race of inflatable Zodiac boats from Riverhead to Greenport and back.

That competition, and others including precision parachuting over Great Peconic Bay, are part of a week-long reunion of famed pararescue technicians, known also as PJ’s. The five-person Zodiac teams will head out to Greenport starting at 9 a.m., where they must dive without scuba geat into the harbor to retrieve a keg full of water, representing the illegal liquor that flowed into the village during Prohibition, and unlock a cable to free cans of fuel needed to return to Riverhead.

The race “requires a little bit of thoughtful navigation, breath holding and other skills we use in rescues and other missions,” said Master Sergeant Jules Roy, a PJ with the 106th.

The race starts at 9 a.m., with one boat leaving every half hour. The round trip is expected to take roughly two hours.

Check back later in the day for photos of the event.

09/06/12 5:00pm
09/06/2012 5:00 PM
Rust Tide, East End, North Fork, Peconic Bay

COURTESY FILE PHOTO | The Peconic Bay is no stranger to algal blooms.

First there was the brown tide, then the red tide and now, floating in waters at either end of the Peconic estuary system, are patches of what New Englanders informally call “rust tide.”

It poses no threat to humans but can be deadly to finfish and shellfish.

Rust tide is a collection of microscopic algae that’s been showing up in the Peconics in late summer during the past several years.


09/03/12 4:00pm
09/03/2012 4:00 PM

SUFFOLK TIMES FILE PHOTO | Luckily nobody was seriously injured in this boating mishap near Greenport last year.

The Peconic Bay Power Squadron released this week a new schedule for upcoming boater safety classes and seminars. The following is a list of the events that will be offered in our area:


Subject: Hurricanes and Boats,
Squadron: Peconic Bay
Contact: Peter Young  Phone: 631-298-4326
Email:  yuriyoung@optonline.net
Location: West Marine
Address: 1089 Old Country Rd
City: Riverhead, NY 11901
Start Date: SEP 08, 2012  Time: 01:00PM
Cost: FREE (Advanced Registration Required)

Subject: How to Use a Chart,
Squadron: Peconic Bay
Contact: Fred Roffe  Phone: 631-728-3721
Email: froffe@optonline.net
Location: West Marine
Address: 1089 Old Country Road (Rt58)
City: Riverhead, NY 11901
Start Date: OCT 13, 2012  Time: 01:00PM
Cost: $45.00

Subject: Using GPS,
Squadron: Peconic Bay
Contact: Fred Roffe  Phone: 631-728-3721
Email: froffe@optonline.net
Location: West Marine
Address: 1089 Old Country Road (Rt58)
City: Riverhead, NY 11901
Start Date: NOV 10, 2012  Time: 01:00PM
Cost: $45.00

Subject: Basic Coastal Navigation,
Squadron: Peconic Bay
Contact: Fred Smith  Phone: 631-298-1930
Email: fbsmithtapman@aol.com
Location: West Marine
Address: 1089 Old Country Road (Rt58)
City: Riverhead, NY 11901
Start Date: JAN 12, 2013  Time: 01:00PM
Cost: $45.00

Advanced Classes

Subject: Seamanship,
Squadron: Peconic Bay
Contact: Larry Hynes  Phone: 631-929-4369
Email: lhcruising@gmail.com
Location: George Young Community Center
Address: Rt25 and Jamesport Avenue
City: Jamesport, NY 11947
Start Date: OCT 02, 2012  Time: 07:00PM
Cost: $75.00

08/16/12 7:00pm
08/16/2012 7:00 PM

TODD GARDINER/LONG ISLAND AQUARIUM PHOTO | Jellyfish, such as these moon jellies on display at Long Island Aquarium in Riverhead, are a rare sight in local waters lately.

If someone pens a folk song about the Peconic Bay estuary this summer it could be titled, “Where have all the jellyfish gone?”

And the answer is, nobody knows.

While jellyfish large and small are usually the bane of bathers’ and boaters’ existence in mid-August, there have been few sightings of the gelatinous zooplankton in either the bays or Long Island Sound. That holds true for the large red lion’s mane jellies and the smaller milky white sea nettles, the species seen most often in local waters.

Marine scientists can only guess why.

“It may have something to do with the water temperature or the water temperature over the winter, but we’re not sure,” said Emerson Hasbrouck, director of the Cornell Cooperative Extension marine program in Riverhead. In both cases water temperatures were found to be somewhat higher than normal.

“Water temperature controls a lot of things, so a few degrees can change many things,” including migration and reproduction, Mr. Hasbrouck said.

Salinity levels, which tend not to vary much from year to year, are of less concern, he said.

Mr. Hasbrouck said he’s never before heard of jellyfish numbers so low in his 24 years with the cooperative extension research group.

The marine program has no jellyfish research projects under way, but staffers conducting field work on other studies have noticed the dearth of jellies, Mr. Hasbrouck added. The extension program’s phone lines have not been jammed with calls questioning the jellies’ disappearance.

“Over the years we hear more about when jellyfish are in high numbers, but people don’t usually complain when the numbers are down,” he said.

He’s certainly not complaining.

“It makes it easier for our eelgrass researchers, who dive almost every day,” Mr. Hasbrouck said.

Lifeguard Ryan Farrell of Jamesport said there’s been no need to refill the vinegar container he keeps with his equipment while watching over swimmers at the Southold Town bay beach in New Suffolk. Vinegar is a common treatment for jellyfish stings.

“I’ve seen one or two this season,” he said from his chair Tuesday afternoon. That’s far from the norm.

“In mid-August, you can’t go into the water sometimes,” said Mr. Farrell, who is in his fourth year as a lifeguard.

So far this summer just one swimmer has come seeking treatment for a sting.

“We all have theories why, but it’s anybody’s guess,” Mr. Farrell said.

Nearby, Candi Jacobs of Mattituck and Jackie Rodgers of Cutchogue were catching some sun while their kids splashed about in the shallows earlier this week. They were only too happy that jellyfish stings weren’t high on their list of parental concerns.

“They were here in early June, but then they seemed to dissipate,” Ms. Jacobs said. “I’m not complaining and the kids are not complaining.”

Megan and Christopher Eilers, also of Mattituck, were also relieved the chance was low that a stinging tentacle — perhaps chopped by a passing power boat — would find its way to their 1-year-old son, Chris.

“We were talking about it just the other night,” Ms. Eilers said. “We’ve seen one this year. This is the least I’ve ever seen and we’re really quite happy.”


06/22/12 7:00pm
06/22/2012 7:00 PM

BETH YOUNG PHOTO | Cornell Cooperative Extension and Empire State Development Corporation staff toss adult scallops into the Peconic Bay off Cedar Beach Friday afternoon. The state recently awarded a $182,000 grant to the project.

The folks working to rebuild the stock of Peconic Bay scallops have a new best friend in the state government.

Researchers at Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Peconic Bay scallop restoration program, based at Cornell’s Cedar Beach, Southold, marine laboratory, had a special visit Friday afternoon from Kenneth Adams, commissioner of the Empire State Development Corporation. The corporation awarded a $182,000 grant earlier this year toward the continuing scallop project.

Lead researchers Dr. Stephen Tettelbach of Long Island University and Dr. Chris Smith of Cornell said they’ve used the funds to expand the hatchery and hire additional employees to help grow scallops to full size in the lab.

“We’ve increased production in our hatchery,” said Dr. Tettelbach. “We plan to grow the scallops from spring to market size in the fall. This is the first time it’s being done in New York State. Other states are selling cultured scallops.”

Dr. Tettelbach said the scallops, which are smaller than wild scallops, will likely be sold whole in the shell.

“It’s a different way of marketing, a different market niche,” he said.

Since scallops are short-lived, usually living no more than two years, their contribution to the population is limited to one spawning season.

Dr. Smith said program researchers have also used grant funds to expand their long-line grow-out system in Orient Harbor. In that system, scallop larvae collect on a mesh surface inside an aerated bag that protects them from predators. Initially, researchers were using the bags, known as spat collectors, as a tool to quantify the number of scallops in the bay. They’re now using them as nurseries for scallops cultivated by humans.

“We’re now using Japanese techniques where you use spat collectors to produce numbers of scallops,” he said. “It’s increasing our capability of spawning and growing scallops.”

Mr. Adams said his office had received marching orders from Governor Andrew Cuomo to provide $785 million in grants by asking regional Economic Development Corporations for advice on the most crucial projects in their areas, instead of having the state dictate where the money would go. More than 700 grants were awarded.

Kevin Law, president of the Long Island Regional Economic Development Council and a former head of the Long Island Power Authority, brought the scallop project to Mr. Adams’ attention.

“This is an incredible, historical, vital natural asset,” Mr. Adams said of the scallop fishery. “Fisheries are a very important part of the regional economy. How would I know about this project sitting back in Albany?

“It really worked well,” he added. “I’d like to think this is the beginning of a long and healthy relationship.”

“I think scallops brought us over the line,” Mr. Law said Friday afternoon at a ceremony on a barge overlooking the laboratory. “Everybody had high tech, but nobody else had scallops.”

Dr. Smith estimated that the scallop industry, which had a negligible economic value for years after the brown tide destroyed the fishery in 1985, brought $3 million in economic activity to the region in 2010 after his research team helped to rebuild the fishery. He estimated the 2010 numbers were about 10 percent of the value of the industry before the brown tide hit.

Dr. Smith said his group hopes to continue building the number of scallops in the bays until there are three to five scallops per square meter on the bottom.

“I think we’re within a few years of that,” he said.

“Can you do lobsters next?” asked Mr. Adams.

“Lobsters are a whole different story,” said Dr. Smith.


05/20/12 7:03pm
05/20/2012 7:03 PM

A 14-year-old Middle Island youth died Sunday afternoon in a boating accident in Peconic Bay off Mattituck, Southold police reported.

Dominick Triofino was riding a Jet Ski in the bay near the end of Bay Avenue in Mattituck just before 2 p.m. when he struck the anchor chain of a boat anchored nearby, said police. Members of his family were on board the boat at the time.

The youth was rushed ashore, treated by members of the Mattituck Fire Department rescue squad and taken to Peconic Bay Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead, according to police.

03/06/12 9:43pm
03/06/2012 9:43 PM

DON BINDLER PHOTO | Dolphin close to shoreline in the shallows of West Neck Bay Sunday afternoon.

A common dolphin that had been spotted swimming in West Neck Bay on Shelter Island was found dead on Cedar Point in East Hampton, according to Julika Wocial, Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation supervisor.

Further details will be reported as they become available.

The dolphin had been spotted on Shelter Island two days ago swimming in a tiny cove area in the northwest corner of the waterway.

The foundation’s rescue unit arrived on the scene about 11 a.m., initially determining that the animal didn’t appear to be in distress. But there were concerns about it beaching itself in the shallows, especially during low tide, Ms. Wocial said. The team remained on the scene for more than 6 1/2 hours.

About 3:15 p.m., after the tide rose, the dolphin approached the deepest part of the cove and “that was good,” Ms. Wocial said. But she still had concerns that it was staying close to the shore and “I started to get a little nervous.”

She and team members donned dry suits and prepared to enter the water when the dolphin swam out and headed for deeper water in West Neck Bay.

Police and Shelter Island residents helped the team to ride around to various areas around the bay so the team could monitor the animal’s progress, Ms. Wocial said. Islanders not only provided rides around the bay but also gave the rescue team food and drinks, she said.

“I could wish all my dolphin rescues were around Shelter Island,” she said, crediting the cooperation of police and residents with making the job easier.

When last sighted before darkness Sunday night, the animal was in deeper water and appeared to be jumping and diving and making sharp turns consistent with feeding behavior, Ms. Wocial said.

State forest ranger Brian McAllister and Shelter Island Police continued to monitor West Neck Bay Monday morning and by midday had made no new sightings of the dolphin, leading Ms. Wocial to speculate that the animal had moved out to sea.

11/27/11 10:00am
11/27/2011 10:00 AM

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