Put Long Island Sound on a Nitrogen Diet

Fish, turtle die-offs sign of massive nitrogen pollution in the Sound and bays

New Haven, Conn.—Connecticut Fund for the Environment and its bi-state program Save the Sound today responded to recent news of fish and turtle die-offs around Long Island Sound, as well as yesterday’s release of a report card on the Sound’s health.

“We’re seeing evidence from around Long Island Sound of an ecosystem in crisis,” said Curt Johnson, executive director of CFE’s Save the Sound program. “Dead bunker fish (also known as menhaden) are washing up on shores around the Sound, at locales as far apart as Peconic Bay, rivers in eastern Connecticut, and Mamaroneck Harbor. No one knows for certain why so many fish are dying in so many areas—and there are likely several culprits—but scientists have pinned down a common theme in some cases.

“What do we know? That in recent weeks, excess nitrogen pollution has caused the most horrifying die-offs. The 100-plus dead turtles that washed up on the eastern end of Long Island over the last month? Scientists know they were killed when they ate shellfish poisoned by toxic algae blooms fueled by nitrogen pollution. The tens of thousands of dead fish coating Peconic Bay’s beaches? They suffocated when they swam into a no-oxygen dead zone—where the oxygen was sucked out of the water by rotting algae—caused by excess nitrogen. The Long Island Sound report card published on Monday? It shows evidence of nitrogen-driven low oxygen conditions throughout the western Sound and in bays and harbors along the shorelines of Long Island.

“Too much nitrogen in our Sound is the common thread. We took action in February by asking the EPA for an updated, enforceable nitrogen reduction plan this year. We still have much to learn. The report card and other efforts are an important part of figuring out what the Sound needs to thrive and what we can do to save it.”

CFE/Save the Sound issued a public petition Tuesday afternoon calling on the U.S. EPA and the governors of New York and Connecticut to develop a new, enforceable nitrogen reduction plan for Long Island Sound. The petition attracted 250 signatures in its first few hours.

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