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NYSDEC

Deer hunting via long bow has been a controversial topic in Huntington Town since first permitted in September 2015. Stock photo

By Sara-Megan Walsh

Deer hunters may need to memorize a new set of regulations in the Town of Huntington before the start of the 2017 hunting season.

Huntington Town Board has scheduled a public hearing for its Sept. 19 meeting on a series of proposed changes affecting the use of longbows for deer hunting.

“Over the past few years we’ve learned some things that have gone on during deer hunting season and want to make it safer for our residents,” Councilwoman Tracey Edwards (D) said.

The proposed changes take aim at restricting the use of a longbow under the town’s firearms regulations, not directly regulating deer hunting which falls under the oversight of New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

Edwards, sponsor of the legislation, said the changes include requiring all hunters to provide written notification to the Town’s Department of Public Safety and the police department prior to hunting and expanding the definition of what’s considered a dwelling.

“If [hunters] are going to use the longbow we want to ensure that there’s written notification to the police department as we’ve had instances of people walking around the neighborhood, armed, and no one knows who they are,” Edwards said.

The proposed code changes will also expand the definition of a “dwelling”  to include “farm building or farm structures actually occupied or used, school building, school playground, public structure, or occupied factory or church” to prevent hunters from firing at deer within 150 feet of these buildings unless they are the property owner.

“Hunting is already regulated by the DEC so the town … is outside of their scope.”

— Michael Tessitore

If the proposed amendments are passed, anyone violating the regulations would face up to a $500 fine per day and prosecution by the town attorney’s office.

The  public hearing is set to take place mere days before the start of the 2017 deer hunting season, which runs from Oct. 1 to Jan. 31 under NYSDEC regulations. Town spokesman A.J. Carter said the town board will have the option to immediately enact the proposed code changes Sept. 19 if there are no substantial objections.

The board’s decision to permit bow hunting in September 2015 remains a contentious issue among local residents, particularly in the areas of Eatons Neck and Asharoken, which routinely deal with deer overpopulation.

“We’ve been having big issues with hunting with it since it began in Asharoken and Eatons Neck,” said Nadine Dumser, an Asharoken Village resident.

Dumser, who also owns property in Eatons Neck, said she has dealt with hunters who did not properly notify her as a homeowner they were active in the area but also entered her yard without permission.

“We would call police and complain about hunters being on our property,” she said. “When they finally do come, they are pretty powerless to do anything.”

Others believe that the Town’s efforts to further regulate longbow use oversteps its legal authority.

Michael Tessitore, founder of the nonprofit  Hunters for Deer, said the more than 85 hunters who are members of his organization will continue to follow the DEC regulations.

“Hunting is already regulated by the DEC so the town, by taking these extra steps to regulate hunting, is outside of their scope,” Tessitore said. “I believe they are going to open themselves up to litigation.”

Tessitore, who is a licensed nuisance wildlife control operator, said he helps manage more than 100 private properties including areas in Eatons Neck, Fort Salonga, and Smithtown to make agreements between hunters and homeowners who support hunting as a form a deer population management. He’s also worked with  Southampton Town to design a deer population management plan.

“I support deer hunting as a management tool,” Tessitore said. “It’s the only proven effective management tool for the overpopulation of deer.”

East Beach in Port Jefferson is getting smaller due to erosion, according to a consulting firm contracted by the village. Photo by Alex Petroski

By Alex Petroski

Port Jefferson Village is shrinking. East Beach, which lies within the parameters of the Port Jefferson Country Club bordering the Long Island Sound, is experiencing erosion that has caused Mayor Margot Garant to take notice and seek assistance in the hopes of reversing the trend.

“The Village of Port Jefferson’s shoreline suffered significant structural damage, resulting from multiple state-of-emergency storm events,” said a Jan. 17 letter from GEI Consultants, a privately owned consulting firm, to the village regarding its concerns about erosion. “These storm events appear to be occurring in greater frequency and severity.”

East Beach in Port Jefferson is getting smaller due to erosion, according to a consulting firm contracted by the village. Photo by Alex Petroski

Representatives from GEI, the village and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation met on the beach May 26 to examine the area and assess its condition. The village is seeking recommendations from GEI and the DEC so that they can then apply for grants from the state to financially assist in projects that would stabilize an already slumping bluff.

“We found that the shoreline erosion has continued to claim significant portions of this recreational area,” the letter said of a Nov. 1, 2016, visit to the beach to view the condition of a bluff that lies below the golf course and adjacent to Port Jefferson Country Club tennis courts and a dune near the mouth of Mount Sinai Harbor.

The bottom 15 feet of the bluff had fallen 260 feet west of the rock revetment, a man-made pile built to preserve the eroding shoreline, according to the letter. Dredging of sand from the Mount Sinai Harbor navigation channel could be used to revitalize the eroding shoreline, and GEI also suggested dead trees be removed on the slumping bluff near the borders of the PJCC to relieve some of the weight on the sand. Removal of trees would require a permit from the DEC.

“These two actions are critical for long term coastal management of this beachfront,” the January letter said, referring to dredging and the eventual repair of a jetty near the mouth of Mount Sinai Harbor, which is owned by the Town of Brookhaven. “In the meantime, East Beach will continue to erode unless stopgap measures are implemented.”

Aphrodite Montalvo, a representative from the DEC’s office of communication services, addressed the May 26 meeting in an emailed statement.

“DEC and GEI have met to discuss erosion issues in the area, as well as options for, and alternatives to erosion control,” she said. “DEC does not currently have any pending permit applications from GEI for the vicinity of East Beach.”

The department referred further questions about the matter to GEI or the village.

The village installed a ramp in May 2016 from the road to the sand at the end of Village Beach Road, the road that leads to the waterfront through the country club, which is becoming exposed at its base due to the eroding sand, according to Garant. GEI representatives said the erosion issues had gotten worse since previous checks during the winter and fall.

The mayor added she plans to go after grant money from the county, state and federal government in the hopes of sharing the cost of potential repairs.

GEI and Garant reiterated that the repair of the Brookhaven-owned jetty would be the first step in alleviating the beach’s erosion issues. In September 2016, Brookhaven committed nearly $6 million in funding to go toward the jetty repair. At the time, Brookhaven hoped Port Jeff Village would contribute dollars for the repairs, because according to Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) the village would receive a direct benefit from the fix, but Garant has yet to show an inclination to do so. The repairs are expected to begin sometime during 2017. The total cost of the repairs is expected to be about $8 million, with grant money secured by state Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) also going toward the project.

U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer speaks to fishermen in Northport. Photo from Marisa Kaufman

Black sea bass is back on the table, as of June 27.

After public outcry for an earlier start to summer sea bass fishing, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation announced this week the season will start 19 days earlier than the previous July start date.

The DEC has blamed federal regulations and management for the reasons behind originally closing the fishing season during June, despite plentiful numbers of bass.

“In spite of abundant populations, DEC is being forced to alter the commercial and recreational fishing seasons in order to meet federal quotas,” Acting Commissioner Basil Seggos said in a statement. “By allowing for an earlier June opening, we’re trying to strike the best possible arrangement for the recreational fishing community.”

U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) called for modifications to the summer fishing period last week at an event on the North Shore, speaking against what he called “inflexible” and “outdated” federal regulations for black sea bass fishing.

Fishing in Port Jefferson/photo by Elana Glowatz
Fishing in Port Jefferson/photo by Elana Glowatz

“After a slow start to the black sea bass season, mostly due to weather, our Long Island commercial fishers are ready to bounce back and access the plentiful supply of sea bass,” Schumer said at the event. “But instead they might fall flat if the feds and the state don’t throw them a line and let them do what they do best — fish.”

And Long Island fishermen said the July start date was hurting their livelihood.

“It’s a disaster for conservation and the economy,” said James Schneider, a boat captain in Huntington. “It’s crushed us.”

Schneider is catching other fish since the last black sea bass season ended on May 31, and said he has been forced to throw back the bass he inadvertently catches. Those die shortly after, he said, further contributing to a loss in potential profits.

Some fishers were also upset that Connecticut’s black sea bass season, which opened on May 1 and runs through Dec. 31, allowed fishermen to start earlier than in New York, as they share a body of water in the Long Island Sound.

Sean Mahar, the DEC director of communications, last week acknowledged fishing got off to a slow start in New York. Through May 21, only one-third of the May quota had been harvested, “with approximately 42,000 pounds [still] available on May 21,” Mahar said in an email. “However, the harvest rate increased dramatically the last week in May,” and the DEC had to receive more population data before deciding to open the summer fishing season earlier than July.

Although fishermen like Schneider can now get back to bass fishing earlier, the DEC has also increased the minimum size of the bottom feeders caught by 1 inch — making the new minimum length 15 inches — and reduced the daily possession limit from eight fish to three. However, that latter change will only affect the fishing season through August, so fishermen can have up to eight in September and October, and 10 in November and December.

According to the DEC, it also considered a July 8 opening with a five-fish limit, but anglers opted for the earlier start with a three-fish limit for a longer season.

Fishers can now catch black sea bass earlier this summer, but the minimum fish length has increased an inch and the number they can catch is limited for the first month.

The DEC also said the federal government’s population assessment of sea bass has caused scientists to “exercise extreme caution when determining harvest limits,” which has forced New York to reduce sea bass harvest despite an “abundance of fish.”

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission is one of three organizations that jointly manage black sea bass fishing, by determining the quota for sea bass each year. The quota this year was set at about 189,000 pounds.

Kirby Rootes-Murdy, that commission’s senior fishery management plan coordinator, said obtaining accurate population data on black sea bass poses a challenge because black sea bass are a hermaphroditic species, meaning they change sex from male to female.

“The reproductive life history characteristics … of black sea bass make it difficult to develop an accurate abundance estimate, ultimately limiting the ability to develop reliable catch limits,” he said in an email. “Assessment scientists are working hard to develop models to address these issues facing black sea bass management.”

Fishers across the North Shore are angry with limits to black sea bass fishing. File photo

Something seems fishy this black sea bass fishing season.

Local legislators, fishers and state organizations alike agree that there are issues with how black sea bass fishing is being regulated.

U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) called for modifications to what he said are “inflexible” and “outdated” federal regulations for black sea bass fishing, which some North Shore fisherman said are hurting their wallets because they have to wait to fish during this crucial fishing period.

Schumer said at an event in Northport last Wednesday that the bottom feeders are not being fairly managed, and the next permitted fishing period should be allowed to start in June instead of July to put people to work at harvesting the plentiful populations.

“After a slow start to the black sea bass season, mostly due to weather, our Long Island commercial fishers are ready to bounce back and access the plentiful supply of sea bass,” Schumer said at the event. “But instead they might fall flat if the feds and the state don’t throw them a line and let them do what they do best — fish.”

“They might fall flat if the feds and the state don’t throw them a line.” —Chuck Schumer

Three organizations — the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Mid-Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission — jointly manage black sea bass fishing, by determining the quota for sea bass each year. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation then determines the quota distribution through the state and periods throughout the year when fishermen can fish for black sea bass.

The quota this year was set at about 189,000 pounds and the most recent period for sea bass fishing ended on May 31, with the next slated to begin on July 1.

According to the Atlantic States group, “The objectives of [management] are to reduce fishing mortality to assure overfishing does not occur, … promote compatible regulations among states and between federal and state jurisdictions…and to minimize regulations necessary to achieve the stated objectives.”

Kirby Rootes-Murdy, that commission’s senior fishery management plan coordinator, said it works to ensure that the black sea bass population stays at a safe level.

But Schumer said the break in June is only hurting fishermen.

U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer speaks to fishermen in Northport last week. Photo from Marisa Kaufman
U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer speaks to fishermen in Northport last week. Photo from Marisa Kaufman

“Below-average black sea bass catch rates … have made it so the total catch at this point of the season is well below the allowable quota limits,” Schumer said, “which is why it is critical to allow these struggling fishermen to continue catching black sea bass this month.”

Sean Mahar, the DEC director of communications, acknowledged fishing got off to a slow start, and said the DEC is committed to re-opening the season before the July 1 date, as long as it’s accurate that anglers are below quota — the agency is still investigating that.

Through May 21, only one-third of the May quota had been harvested, “with approximately 42,000 pounds [still] available on May 21,” Mahar said in an email.

“However, the harvest rate increased dramatically the last week in May, and the state is still awaiting data from the commercial fishermen and dealers that are required to submit landings and sales reports to DEC to determine the how much of the quota was actually harvested. If there is quota leftover, we will open the season again sooner than July 1.”

Mahar also said the DEC has pressed federal regulators, including the Atlantic States commission, to implement changes to improve fishery in New York, including the system for tabulating bass populations.

“The increasingly restrictive measures demanded of Northeastern states are inequitable and cause great socioeconomic harm to our anglers and related businesses,” DEC Acting Commissioner Basil Seggos said in a statement. Regulatory agencies “must revise their management strategy and not keep New York … at a competitive disadvantage while the black sea bass population continues to grow.”

“It’s a disaster for conservation and the economy.”
—James Schneider

Rootes-Murdy said these decisions on quotas are based on population projections for the species but black sea bass pose a challenge for accurate projections, as they are a hermaphroditic species, meaning they change sex from male to female.

“That aspect makes it difficult to develop a population model around,” Rootes-Murdy said.

North Shore fishermen said the break in the season is hurting their livelihood.

“It’s a disaster for conservation and the economy,” said James Schneider, a boat captain in Huntington. “It’s crushed us.”

Schneider is catching other fish in the meantime and said he has been forced to throw back black sea bass he inadvertently catches. Those die shortly after, he said, further contributing to a loss in potential profits.

Northport fishing captain Stu Paterson said he agreed that he has had to throw back many sea bass during the off-season, as they “are all over the Sound right now.”

He also questioned why Connecticut’s black sea bass season, which opened on May 1 and runs through Dec. 31, allows fishermen to start earlier than in New York, as they share a body of water.

Supervisor Ed Romaine, Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro and Suffolk SPCA Chief Roy Gross pose with a 32-inch female American alligator turned in on Amnesty Day. Photo from Brookhaven Town

Long Islanders turned in three American alligators and eight turtles at a recent animal amnesty event in Brookhaven Town, and all of the reptiles are shipping up to a Massachusetts sanctuary.

Brookhaven’s Holtsville Ecology Center hosted the event on Oct. 10 to allow residents to turn in any protected, endangered or threatened animals that require special New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service permits without fear of penalties or questioning. It was the second annual event of its kind for the town, which operated with the help of those two agencies and the Suffolk County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

People with dangerous or illegal animals were able to turn them over to professionals, no questions asked.

Suffolk SPCA Chief Roy Gross called the recent amnesty event a success, saying the three alligators turned in “had the potential of ending up endangering the public.”

According to Brookhaven Town, the average length a fully grown female American alligator is a little more than 8 feet, and a fully grown male can be longer than 11 feet. Of the three alligators turned in, two were males, measuring 27 and 29 inches, and one was a 32-inch female.

“People should think twice before acquiring illegal reptiles or mammals,” Gross said in a statement from the town. “They do not make good pets and you are risking fines and possible jail time.”

At last year’s animal amnesty event, people turned in 25 animals, including a western diamondback rattlesnake, a green anaconda, four boa constrictors, an American alligator and two marmosets.

“These animals were turned in before the people harboring them as pets released them into the wild, creating a potentially dangerous situation in our local communities,” Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro said in a statement about the alligators and turtles turned over this year. “These animals will now receive proper care without posing a threat.”

Owners of potentially dangerous animals have dumped them in public places in the past, creating a public safety issue. In late August, a 25-pound alligator snapping turtle was discovered in a stream of the Nissequogue River opposite the Smithtown Bull on Route 25. The reptile is not indigenous to Long Island — it is a freshwater animal with enough power to bite off a human toe or finger, and is usually found in places from eastern Texas to the Florida panhandle.

“People need to understand that many exotic animals can be very dangerous if not handled properly or allowed to grow to their adult size,” Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) said in a statement. “They are even more threatening if released into the wild, where they could harm people or other animals.”

Some Eaton’s Neck residents have set their sights on terminating deer through bow hunting. Stock photo

Residents of Eaton’s Neck are still divided on how to deal with what they say is an overpopulation of deer in their community, and it looks like the Huntington Town Board hasn’t come to a decision on the matter either.

The board held a public hearing last month to consider allowing longbow hunting during hunting season on private proprieties on Eaton’s Neck and in unincorporated areas of Asharoken to anyone who has a hunting license issued by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. It brought out those in support of the proposal and some against the idea. In interviews this week, board members said they have not currently made up their minds on how to proceed with the issue.

Residents expressed concerns about the deer population at the July 14 board meeting.

“Our major concern is safety — traveling our roads at night is hazardous,” Ken Kraska, a resident of Eaton’s Neck said at the meeting then.

After that meeting, the board hosted a public hearing about the longbow hunting proposal, where nearly 30 people took to the podium to speak about the issue. While some residents were very supportive of bow hunting to reduce the population, others felt it was an inhumane way to deal with the issue.

Some are still divided on this idea.

Doug Whitcomb, an Eaton’s Neck resident and member of the Eaton Harbors Corporation board, said in a phone interview this week that he supports longbow hunting. He spoke at the public hearing last month on the issue.

“We are overrun with deer,” Whitcomb said. “They no longer run from you. I was personally challenged by one yesterday, and not even my 150-pound Great Dane scared the deer.”

Whitcomb said that many of his neighbors now have Lyme disease, and he doesn’t want to wait until a member of his family contracts it before something is done.

“We want the same quality of life as every other resident, and we’re being denied that,” he said.

According to the DEC, which manages the state’s deer hunting, the Long Island deer population has been steadily increasing since the 1980s. The DEC considers hunting, or culling deer, is the most cost-effective and efficient way to stabilize or reduce deer populations, while also alleviating associated damages to private property and natural resources.

Christine Ballow, an Eaton’s Neck resident, said she supports more humane ways to handle this issue. She said she didn’t feel longbow hunting was 100 percent effective.

“I’m hoping this doesn’t go through,” Ballow said in a phone interview.

Wendy Chamberlin, president of the Wildlife Preservation Coalition of Eastern Long Island, also shares the belief that bow hunting is a cruel and ineffective option.

“For sentient animals, that have thoughts and feelings, it is particularly cruel … it is a long, drawn-out, agonizing death,” she said in a previous interview.

Ballow supports hormonal sterilization of the male deer. “It’s a peaceful solution,” she said.

Joe DeRosa, an Eaton’s Neck resident, spoke at both board meetings, and is expecting a decision from the Town Board at the Sept. 16 meeting.

DeRosa is president of the Eaton Harbors Corporation, which conducted a survey of Eaton’s Neck residents. He said 85 percent of residents were found supporting some type of hunting to reduce deer numbers.

“The problem is getting worse by the day,” DeRosa said. “And we are running out of time. Hunting season starts soon. Our hope is that [the board] approves this idea.”

Suffolk County hunting season begins on Oct. 1 and ends on Jan. 31.

Town Board members this week either said they had no comment on the issue or that they had not come to a decision on the matter.

Town Supervisor Frank Petrone said he is “still weighing the testimony from the public hearing and the input from the public that has come in and may still come in before the board meeting,” according to an email from town spokesperson A.J. Carter.

A horseshoe crab no more than 4 years old. Photo by Erika Karp

The Brookhaven Town Board has officially backed Supervisor Ed Romaine’s push for a horseshoe crab harvesting ban at town parks and properties.

At a meeting on July 16, councilmembers unanimously supported a resolution that requests the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation close North and South Shore parks and underwater lands to horseshoe crab harvesting and recommends strategies to reduce the harvesting. State Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) also spoke at the meeting and threw in his support for the effort, as it would help protect the crab population — which, according to some reports, has decreased.

“I support this resolution and encourage its passage and compliment the very fact that it has been initiated,” said Englebright, who chairs the Assembly’s Committee on Environmental Conservation.

State Assemblyman Steve Englebright, right, and a local fisherman, left, speak at a Brookhaven Town Board meeting. Photo by Erika Karp
State Assemblyman Steve Englebright, right, and a local fisherman, left, speak at a Brookhaven Town Board meeting. Photo by Erika Karp

In May, Romaine announced he would seek a horseshoe crab harvesting ban for areas within 500 feet of town-owned waterfront properties. Fishermen often use horseshoe crabs for bait, but the crabs are also used for medicinal purposes, as their blue blood, which is worth an estimated $15,000 a quart, is used in the biomedical and pharmaceutical industries to detect bacterial contamination in drugs and supplies.

Advocates for the ban have said the crabs, whose species is 450 million years old, play a vital role in the ecosystem, as birds like the red knot eat the crabs’ eggs.

Local parks covered within the town’s request include Port Jefferson Harbor; the western boundary of the Mount Sinai inlet; underwater lands and town-owned shoreline of Setauket Harbor; and Shoreham Beach.

The DEC already has bans in place at Mount Sinai Harbor and West Meadow Beach.

In addition, the town asked the DEC to consider mandating fishers to use bait bags and/or artificial bait; banning the harvesting of horseshoe crab females; and establishing full harvest bans several days before and after full moons in May and June — the crabs’ nesting season.

Those latter recommendations were not included in the original resolution, but were added after weeks of discussion on the issue.

Local baymen have said their livelihoods would be jeopardized by any further restrictions, and the seamen remained opposed to the resolution last Thursday. Many also disagreed with officials that the crab population was decreasing.

“If you were with us you would know the quantities are there,” Florence Sharkey, president of the Brookhaven Baymen’s Association, said at the meeting.

Sharkey added that alternative baits have been tried, but don’t work.

Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine holds a horseshoe crab as he calls on the state to ban the harvesting of the crabs within 500 feet of town property. Photo by Erika Karp
Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine holds a horseshoe crab as he calls on the state to ban the harvesting of the crabs within 500 feet of town property. Photo by Erika Karp

Despite the testimony, the Town Board moved forward with resolution, which had been tabled for nearly two months. Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) called the decision a difficult one.

During public comment, Englebright invited the fishers to speak before his committee, as the state is wrestling with the issue as well.

The assemblyman introduced legislation in March that would impose a moratorium on harvesting horseshoe crabs and their eggs until 2021. While the bill wasn’t voted on in the last legislative session, a different bill, which outlines similar recommendations to the DEC regarding crab conservation and management, was approved.

Englebright said the law would be revisited in two years. He said he hoped the DEC would get better data on the crabs in the future as well.

While the state continues to grapple with the issue, Englebright noted the town’s requested ban is different, as it pertains to parkland.

“This is a park and public expectation is different than [at] the general shoreline,” he said. “A park is usually a place that animals have the opportunity to have refuge.”

Photo from the health department

Blue-green algae has made some waters in Suffolk County unsafe for residents, according to the county health department.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation reported recently that in seven nearby bodies of water, levels of cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae, have exceeded health criteria, according to the Suffolk County Department of Health Services.

While cyanobacteria appear naturally in lakes and streams in low levels, the department said, they can become abundant and form blooms that are green, blue-green, yellow, brown or red in color. The algae can appear in “floating scums on the surface of the water, or may cause the water to take on [a] paint-like appearance.” Contact with those scummy or discolored waters should be avoided.

Currently affected waters include parts of Lake Ronkonkoma; Old Town Pond, Agawam Lake and Mill Pond in Southampton; Maratooka Lake in Mattituck; Kellis Pond in Bridgehampton; and Wainscott Pond in Wainscott.

Lake Ronkonkoma Beach has already been closed to bathing for more than a week, a health department official said on Monday, because test results showed high levels of a different bacteria — E. coli, caused by fowl droppings.

The levels of cyanobacteria and “associated toxins” are particularly high at Agawam Lake, the health department said in a recent press release, so residents should avoid direct exposure to water there.

At all of the affected locations, the health department said, residents should not use the water, and should not swim or wade in it. Officials also advised residents to keep both children and pets away from the areas.

If people or pets come in contact with the affected water, health officials said, they should be rinsed off immediately with clean water. If the affected person experiences symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, allergic reactions, breathing difficulties or irritation in the skin, eyes or throat, he should seek medical attention.

More information about cyanobacteria is available on the county health department’s website.

To report a cyanobacteria bloom at a county beach where bathing is permitted, call the Suffolk County Department of Health Services’ Office of Ecology at 631-852-5760. To report one at a body of water in Suffolk County without a bathing beach, call the Division of Water at the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation at 518-402-8179.

Mute swans peruse the Setauket Harbor waters. Photo by Maria Hoffman

By Susan Risoli

Mute swans might soon have an easier relationship with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, if a bill recently passed through the York State Legislature is signed into law.

The legislation was written to require DEC to provide scientific documentation that mute swans are a threat to the environment. Also, before taking any action to control the state’s mute swan population, the DEC would have to hold at least two public hearings and give the public at least 45 days to comment on its plans for dealing with the birds.

The legislation package passed the state Assembly June 9 and had passed the state Senate on April 22.

Mute swans, a non-native species from Europe, are considered an invasive species, according to the state DEC. Trumpeter swans, also found in New York, are native to the region and are not included in the DEC’s management plan.

The agency’s proposed mute swan management plan, released in March, called for limiting the statewide population to 800 birds. By 2002, there were more than 2,000 mute swans downstate and 200 upstate, the report said.

State Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket), chairman of the Assembly’s Committee on Environmental Conservation, said in a phone interview Tuesday that the mute swan legislation was a response to public concern “that had been raised, particularly about the lack of appropriate science to justify this eradication of a very beautiful animal” that inspires “a sense of curiosity about the environment,” particularly among children.

In April, Englebright and Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz (D-Brooklyn), also a member of the Committee on Environmental Conservation, sent DEC’s Bureau of Wildlife a letter saying the agency disregarded the state Legislature’s requests for “full documentation of the scientific basis for management decisions” and requests for “less reliance on lethal management measures. The DEC has failed to provide compelling scientific information as to why such an aggressive management strategy is being pursued.”

DEC spokesman Jomo Miller said in an emailed statement Tuesday that the agency is reviewing the letter from Englebright and Cymbrowitz “as part of its review of the comments received” on the draft management plan. The DEC hopes to adopt a final plan later this summer, Miller said.

“At that time, we will provide a response to the principal comments received, as we did for comments on the first draft of the plan,” he said.

In an interview, Englebright said the legislation is “not just an exercise in willfulness on our part but an exercise in democracy,” and it reflects “a very high interest” from the public about the fate of the swans.

The legislation would require DEC to “give priority to nonlethal management techniques” for controlling the mute swan population. The proposed plan said it does not advocate any specific method of controlling the population, and because many people object to the use of lethal control methods, especially killing adult birds, the DEC will use “nonlethal” methods where practical and timely to achieve the management objectives, the report said.

Research shows that mute swans “can significantly reduce the availability of submerged aquatic vegetation in wetland ecosystems” depending on the number of swans relative to the size of the area being considered, the spokesperson said.

The DEC said in the draft management plan that mute swans hurt the environment by eating and uprooting large quantities of plants that are food for fish and other wildlife. Swan feces have high levels of coliform bacteria, which can make waters unsafe for drinking, swimming and shell fishing, the document said. Their presence near airports poses “a serious threat to aviation,” the plan said. It also said that territorial swans have been known to attack people and other birds.