Algae Blooms Causing Habitat Degradation in Popponesset Bay

MASHPEE – A marine science and technology professor from UMass Dartmouth did not have good news for Mashpee selectmen earlier this month on the state of the water quality in Popponesset Bay.

Brian Howe said the quality of the water in 2016 and 2017 was worse than any other years monitored due to a large phytoplankton bloom.

Water quality in the region is poor due to excess nitrogen from law fertilizer or lack of functioning septic systems. The nitrogen is getting into coastal embayments and creating nutrients for algae to thrive.

“The real problem is habitat degredation. You can see it if you go out in Mashpee waterways” Howe said. “We lose eel grass. We lose shellfish. We lose birds. We lose just everything. It’s a whole-scale habitat decline.”

Howe said the town is losing both commercial and recreational resources.

“If you think about it we are pushing really hard on aquaculture but we are losing some of our normal shellfish,” he said. “We are pushing really hard in the state for migratory fish but we are losing the food that they eat when they come into these estuaries.”

Howe said the goal of the town is to keep its estuaries clean for citizens and migratory fish.

“We are having real problems right now,” he said. “We are even down to lost aesthetics in many of our areas.”

Howe said he tries to highlight positive developments when talking with town officials, but there wasn’t much positive over the last year.

Town officials are hoping to save money by increasing its shellfish propagation.

Officials are seeking to increase the amount of quahogs grown in town waters this year to 10 million from 8 million last year.

Shellfish consume excess algae which will help to grow eel grass to improve the habitat.

Although Selectmen did not take a formal vote, they decided to bring a finance plan before residents at Town Meeting about water quality improvement efforts.

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