Cochlodinium polykrikoides (C. poly) is an emerging “red tide” HAB first noted in Suffolk County waters in 2004. It causes intense and widespread reddish-brown blooms that have been coined locally as the “rust tide”. The organism has been implicated as causing toxic algal blooms in coastal waters worldwide (Gobler, 2010), and has been found to be lethal to multiple species and life stages of fish and shellfish. Locally, the initial bloom occurred throughout the Peconic Estuary and in eastern Shinnecock Bay in 2004, and has occurred at the same locations every year since (through 2012). In 2011, blooms also occurred in Great South Bay.
Studies conducted by the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences of Stony Brook University, and funded by Suffolk County Capital Project 8224, Harmful Algal Blooms (Gobler, 2010), have demonstrated that the organism is highly toxic, capable of killing other phytoplankton, zooplankton and fish, as well as juvenile and larval shellfish including bay scallops, hard clams and oysters, in a matter of hours to days. Observed impacts during blooms have included the complete mortality of captive finfish and the mortality of caged and wild shellfish. During the blooms of 2008 and 2009, fishermen reported the mass mortality of fish held in pound nets both in the Peconic Estuary and in Shinnecock Bay. During 2009, a mass mortality of scallops that occurred in Little Peconic Bay and Noyack Bay was similarly attributed to a bloom of Cochlodinium polykrikoides .
Studies have also demonstrated the organism to be nutritionally flexible, capable of assimilating a variety of nitrogen compounds, thereby giving it a distinct competitive advantage over other algal species. Recent work by Gobler confirmed the production of resting cysts by C. polykrikoides in laboratory cultures, providing a mechanism that accounts for the recurrence of annual blooms in specific embayments as well as the expansion of blooms across the county (Gobler, 2013).
Gobler et al. (2008). Characterization, dynamics, and ecological impacts of harmful Cochlodinium polykrikoides blooms on eastern Long Island, NY, USA. Harmful Algae 7(3), April, 2008. [Upload Pending]
Gobler, C.J. (2010). The cause, effects, dynamics, and distribution of Cochlodinium polykrikoides blooms and cells in the Peconic Estuary, Suffolk County, NY. Progress report to the Suffolk County Department of Health Services. March, 2010. [Upload Pending]
Gobler, C.J. (2013). Monitoring and understanding toxic Cyanobacteria and Cochlodinium polykrikoides blooms in Suffolk County. Final report to the Suffolk County Department of Health Services. September, 2013. [Upload Pending]