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Ocean Monitoring Projects

Ocean Action Plan Updates

Here is a closer look at some of the exciting projects we are working on through the New York Ocean Action Plan:

Ocean Monitoring System and Indicators of Ocean Health for the New York Bight

Map of Algal Bloom from August 2013
New York Bight Ocean Algal Bloom August 2013
Photo Credit: NASA Earth Observatory

Ocean indicators are measurable properties of the ocean environment which can reveal important information and trends occurring in the ecosystem. By monitoring these indicators regularly, we can begin to understand the natural and anthropogenic changes occurring in the New York Bight and determine the health of the ocean environment. To gain a consensus on what these indictors should be, a stakeholder workshop convened in August 2016, to determine which ocean indicators could provide metrics for both ecosystem health and services in the New York Bight. The workshop established a set of indicators (PDF, 1.2 MB), conducted on regular time intervals, which could provide baseline data about long-term trends in ocean conditions. This data helps resource managers better understand key relationships between the ocean and humans, predator-prey dynamics within the ocean ecosystem, and to evaluate the economics and ecological risks associated with relationships.

Starting in Fall of 2017, SoMAS at SUNY Stony Brook and DEC, will begin an ocean monitoring project on the RV Seawolf (link leaving the DEC website) to collect physical, chemical, and biological data from the shore to the continental shelf in ocean waters off New York in order to assess and understand the current state of the ocean. The first year will establish a baseline condition of ocean conditions that what be analyzed against subsequent seasonal and annual conditions. This information will be presented in State of the Ocean Reports Action 34. This information helps create an effective EBM approach and informs future decisions. This project fulfills goals laid out by Actions 27, 32, and 33 of the OAP.

Nearshore Ocean Trawl Survey

An Atlantic torpedo ray
Atlantic torpedo ray (Torpedo nobiliana)

Establishing baseline information and long-term data series from monitoring programs are essential for fishery managers to be able to understand distribution, abundance and basic demographic parameters for many important fish species. These data are crucial for defining stock structure, evaluating residency or home range patterns, determining habitat preferences and seasonal migration patterns.

NYSDEC's Ocean Trawl Survey is a ten-year survey that started in the fall of 2017 on the RV Seawolf (link leaves DEC website). The survey collects abundance and biological data from adult and subadult finfish and macro invertebrates in the nearshore waters (up to 30 m) to better understand their distribution, relative abundances and life history. The survey samples the Atlantic Ocean from Breezy Point to Block Island Sound year-round, as well as tag adult striped bass in the fall when they migrate through our marine waters. By sampling the entirety of New York's Ocean waters during all seasons, we will be able to establish a baseline for managers to monitor local fisheries.

Most fish that are caught during the survey are counted, weighed, and returned to the water with minimal handing and disturbance. More detailed processing (length, individual weight, sex, maturity ageing, genetics) are done on a subset of commercial and recreational important species. This biological data, along with additional physical and chemical data, provides researchers and managers a better understanding of long-term trends and indicators of the health of our ocean, which will help support future monitoring programs.

Ocean Acidification Impacts

The Boat RV Seawolf
RV Seawolf, Photo Credit: Jerry Meaney

Ocean Acidification (OA) (link leaving the DEC website), resulting from increasing anthropogenic CO2 emissions, is expected to have profound adverse effects on marine organisms. There has already been suspected effects to commercially important shellfish species such as hard clams, bay scallops, and oysters. Lobsters are suspected to be in decline due to warming and acidified waters. Studies have shown that eutrophication (an excess of nutrients) which result from excess nitrogen pollution, exacerbate OA effects further and amplify the effects of acidification in the marine environment. Some water quality monitoring programs in the state's estuaries already include measurements for pH. To understand the significance of coastal acidification, additional monitoring of our estuaries has been established. The USGS Point Lookout Water Quality Monitoring Station (link leaving the DEC website) has added pH to their monitoring list. Similar measurements are being conducted in the Peconic Estuary. The ocean monitoring project on the RV Seawolf (link leaving the DEC website) will begin to collect baseline carbonate chemistry data in the New York Bight.

Map of Mid-Atlantic Coastal Acidification Network Monitoring
Mid-Atlantic Coastal Acidification Network (MACAN) Monitoring

In an effort to understand the effects of OA on the New York Bight, the Ocean Acidification Task Force was legislated in 2016 to identify the causes and factors contributing to ocean acidification and evaluating ways of addressing the problem by applying the best available science as to ocean acidification and its anticipated impacts. Appointments to the Task Force are currently being made. OA meetings will be open to the public and will be announced via the DEC website for further announcements. View this legislation by visiting the New York State Senate (link leaves DEC's website).

These projects help accomplish the goals established by Action 15 and will be an essential element to NYS aquaculture policy and industry Action 41.

Ocean Outfalls

Two existing ocean outfalls will undergo end of pipe monitoring from Bergen Point and Cedar Creek Sewage Treatment Plants to understand the effects of wastewater effluent on ocean habitats. The study will also examine the effects of allowing effluent from the Bay Park WWTP, which serves approximately 40% of Nassau County, to utilize these offshore outfalls. Bay Park current discharges approximately 50 million gallons of wastewater per day, and causes widespread degradation and toxic conditions to the Western Bays of the Long Island South Shore Estuary Reserve (SSER) (link leaves DEC's website).

Bay Park Wastewater Treatment Plant Connection to Cedar Creek
Bay Park Wastewater Treatment
Plant Connection to Cedar Creek outfall
Photo Credit: NYS Governor's Office

Listed as an "impaired waterbody" by DEC, the embayment continues to be degraded and experienced infrastructure failure during Superstorm Sandy. Nassau County and state officials are currently evaluating options for releasing effluent into the Atlantic Ocean's open system to alleviate stressors on the embayment. This would require compliance with the Ocean Dumping Act requirements. The completion of this project reflects the goals set out by Action 7.

On October 29, the fifth anniversary of Superstorm Sandy, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced a $354 million project to significantly improve the water quality of Long Island's Western Bays. Waste from the Bay Park Wastewater Treatment Plant will be diverted-through an abandoned aqueduct under Sunrise Highway-to the existing Cedar Creek outfall, which diffuses treated sewage nearly three miles into the Atlantic Ocean. The project will prevent the discharge of 19 billion gallons of treated sewage into the warm, shallow Western Bays each year, eliminating harmful nitrogen pollution to jump start the rejuvenation of vital marshlands that protect communities from waves and storm surge. Action 8