We reported last month that gobs of red seaweed had washed up on Popponesset Beach in Mashpee. It was not particularly notable in itself; we’ve probably all seen at some time or other all sorts of weed on the beaches. But it was notable to Mashpee High School teacher Nicole Corbett, whose family has been familiar with the Popponesset area for many years. She noted that, while Nantucket Sound is usually crystal clear late in the fall, there have been blooms of brown algae in the past five years and this year was particularly bad.
It reminded us that the late George Hampson, who was passionate about the environmental integrity of Buzzards Bay, was very alarmed by the appearance of brown algae some 10 years ago. One summer he went up in a plane with Paul Rifkin, who photographically documented the brown tide.
We have not heard of the brown tide in Buzzards Bay in recent years. It could be that Mr. Hampson, who died five years ago, is no longer here to keep us apprised. Or, perhaps more likely, the Buzzards Bay Coalition’s hard work is paying off.
But not so in Nantucket Sound. Ms. Corbett has been collecting samples off Popponesset Beach and said they are higher than farther out in the open water.
Attention throughout the region has, quite rightly, been focused on estuaries and what needs to be done to clean them up. And, at the urging of the Association for the Preservation of Cape Cod, more attention will be paid to phosphorous pollution in the freshwater ponds.
But Ms. Corbett’s observations should tell us all that a critical eye should also be put on Nantucket and Vineyard sounds. They are vulnerable, too.