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The Long Island Sound Study

See our current update on the Sound Study

The Long Island Sound Study (LISS) is a major government-sponsored program dedicated to defining, understanding, and recommending methods for managing the environmental health of Long Island Sound. The LISS began in 1985 and since then has utilized the coordinated efforts of federal, interstate, state, and local agencies, universities, environmental groups, industry, and the general public. Funds are provided mainly by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's National Estuary Program, with other funding from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), New York state, and Connecticut.

Scientific and technical studies have been brought to bear on the Sound as never before. Historical and current data on the sources and fates of pollutants are being gathered, and the effects of pollutants on plants and animals are being assessed. The data are being used in computer models to study the interactions of temperature, salinity, tide and currents, and the effects on water quality of pollutants, dissolved oxygen, and phytoplankton population.

The LISS is focussing on five issues of primary importance:

  1. Low concentrations of dissolved oxygen in the water (hypoxia)
  2. Toxic contamination
  3. Pathogens
  4. Floatable debris
  5. Effect of water quality on fish and shellfish

Ultimately, the LISS will issue a Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan containing recommended management solutions for dealing with each of these issues. By 1990, however, the LISS had already established that low dissolved oxygen in the water, the condition known as hypoxia, is by far the most serious of the problems.

Simply put, the less dissolved oxygen in the water, the fewer the marine creatures that can survive in it. Fish and bottom dwellers leave an area of low dissolved oxygen if they can. Those that cannot leave, such as clams and oysters, may die. Meanwhile, habitats and life cycles are disrupted. Fish may be unable to spawn where they usually do, and for many species the youngsters are more likely to succumb than the adults.

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