What better time than World Oceans Day to receive an assessment of how Long Island Sound – and Norwalk Harbor – are doing, health-wise?
Results of the first-ever ecosystem-health “report cards” were released today in a special presentation by the Long Island Sound Funders Cooperative.
Not surprisingly, the Sound scored an A at its eastern end but the grades worsen until becoming an F at its far western end. As the report explains, the scores change “corresponding to the progression of less developed and lower populated areas to more developed and highly populated areas.”
The Sound was graded in five regions:
• eastern – A.
• central – B.
• western (Bridgeport to Norwalk) – B-
• eastern narrows (roughly New Rochelle to Darien/Great Neck to Eaton’s Neck) – D+
• and western narrows (essentially the back end of the bathtub, which gets little tidal refreshing, where the Sound connects to the East River in New York City) – F.
Norwalk Harbor received a C+.
The University of Maryland’s Center for Environmental Science determined the grades after analyzing locally collected data – for Norwalk Harbor, particularly data of the Harbor Watch initiative of Westport-based EarthWatch.
Caroline Donovan, program manager of that university center, presented the results today (6/8) in a ceremony at Sherwood Island State Park in Westport. For the Sound’s grade, she said, rated factors included the water’s clarity and its levels of dissolved oxygen, chlorophyll, nitrogen and phosphorus.
For Norwalk Harbor, she said, factors were water clarity and dissolved oxygen levels, and also the numbers of fish, crabs and other invertebrate creatures found. Pollutants running off the land – pet waste, lawn fertilizer and leaks from cars and boats – are the harbor’s biggest issues.
“It’s getting better but it’s still not food enough,” U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal told those in attendance representing numerous environmental organizations. “The citizen advocacy that you are providing plays a really critical role because government cannot do it alone. … This report card is a call to action.”
Blumenthal said he was about to return to Washington, DC, later on Monday.
“I’m going to tell my colleagues in New York, ‘You should be ashamed,’’’ he said, referring to the western narrow’s grade of F.
State Sen. Bob Duff reminded the group that many people in Connecticut rely on the Sound for recreation but also for their livelihood. He praised the idea of the report card, which will inspire us “to stay on and be vigilant about what is really our back yard.”
The Long Island Sound Funders Collaborative (LISFC) is a group of funders with missions that include protecting and restoring Long Island Sound.
“It’s not so much about the grades,” said Hugh Killin III, executive director of the Jeniam Foundation (one of the collaborative members). “It’s about starting a conversation about what happens next.”
Explore the Report Card at http://ecoreportcard.org/report-cards/long-island-sound.
– Dave Sigworth, Maritime Aquarium publicist
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