Report: Warming water in LI Sound altering fish populations

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WESTPORT — A report on the health of Long Island Sound says fish such as black seabass and summer flounder that prefer warm water are appearing more frequently due to warming caused by climate change.

The report released Monday by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation also says fish such as winter flounder, Atlantic herring and red herring that prefer cold water are slowly decreasing.

Data were collected by government agencies in Connecticut, New York state, New York City and university partners.

The report also said fisheries such as oysters, scallops and lobsters and salt marshes and seagrasses that once were widespread have been reduced due to environmental degradation from development, fishing and climate change.

With low bacteria levels, areas were accessible to swimming most of the time.

Report cards on the ecosystem health are cautiously positive for the state, at least when it comes to preventing what’s going in the water. New London County shoreline waters, for example, got an “A.” The area is bigger, and it’s not as polluted from development. Also, it exchanges with the Atlantic Ocean, so you have that dilution factor.

But the grades measuring the water quality had one distinctive pattern. The farther east towards New London you go, the grades get better. But the closer to New York you get? The grades go down–all way to an “F” as you near the city. Why?

The way Sen. Richard Blumenthal sees it, “New York is ground zero for pollution–literally desecrating our Sound. We are in danger of swimming in New York’s mess,” he said.

And that’s the focus of the grades – and looking towards the future: building better mouse traps to keep sewage and chemical runoff from heading into the 1,300 square miles of shoreline, and working with New York and Rhode Island to get those grades up for next term.