Brown Tide Spews Out Shinnecock Inlet

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The algae blooms infamously known as “brown tide” have returned to Shinnecock, Quantuck and Moriches bays, having been largely absent for much of the summer.

The algae has proliferated in the waters west of the Ponquogue Bridge, but outgoing tides in the last week have sucked the brown-stained waters into the eastern portions of Shinnecock Bay, and even out the mouth of Shinnecock Inlet into the Atlantic Ocean on some days.

“The most intense part of the bloom is [eastern] Moriches through western Shinnecock [bays], but on the outgoing tide, it’s already starting to flush past the bridge and out the inlet,” Stony Brook University professor Christopher Gobler, Ph.D., said of the blooms in a message this week. “It was mild in the summer, ended by July, was gone for August and early September, and has come back in the past few weeks.”

In the 1980s and 1990s, brown tide blooms in the south shore bays and Peconic system were blamed for wiping out shellfish stocks that have struggled to recover, even though a brown tide bloom has not been seen east of Ponquogue Bridge or in the Peconics in nearly 20 years.

Brown tides never really went away in Quantuck Bay and have expanded their annual reach into eastern Moriches and western Shinnecock bays in the last 10 years. Other species of harmful algae have also appeared in widespread blooms in recent years—namely, two species of red algae that have closed shellfish harvesting and been blamed for die-offs of fish and scallops throughout the region.

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