Red tide concerns

in Bay State

Reasons are unclear for the largest outbreak of red tide in Massachusetts Bay in 12 years, according to scientists from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Shellfish beds from Maine to Cape Cod have been closed as a result.

The scientists say the current outbreak could reflect a number of factors. They include the “perfect storm” idea where all the conditions were right to introduce cells into the Bay from the north, the result of a Nor’easter in early May. They also point out that there may be more “cysts” of the algae in the western Gulf of Maine sediments than in the past, as a result of a major red tide bloom last fall. Cysts remain dormant in sediments until conditions are favorable for germination and growth, leading to a bloom in subsequent years. Another possibility is that there is more fresh water entering the coast of the Gulf of Maine this year than has been the case for over a decade, reflecting the abundant rainfall this spring and the heavy snowfall over the winter. This fresh water provides the hydrographic conditions that can lead to optimum growth.

“The current bloom is big, much larger in fact than the last outbreak in the Bay 12 years ago, and much more widespread,” added Anderson. “This is an unusual event.”

Prison likely

for N.H. boater

New Hampshire Supreme Court on June 16 upheld the negligent homicide conviction of a man charged in a fatal boating accident on Lake Winnipesaukee in 2002.

Daniel J. Littlefield, 41, of Meredith, N.H., was found guilty in 2003 for the death of John Hartman, 69, of Bedford, N.H. The court unanimously rejected Littlefield’s claim that the trial judge gave faulty instructions to the jury. He’s facing a 2-1/2- to 7-year sentence.

“The trial judge clearly considered the defendant’s life history, his lack of any criminal record, his demeanor throughout the length of the trial, and the tremendous impact of the trial and sentence on both the defendant and his family,” says Chief Justice John Broderick in a 14-page decision he released the day of the ruling.

Littlefield was operating his 36-foot Baja Outlaw the night of Aug. 11, 2002, when it ran over a 20-foot Wellcraft, killing Hartman. Littlefield’s lawyers argued that Hartman was at fault for having turned off his running lights so he and his passengers could see the stars, a news report says. An expert testified at the trial that the lights were most likely on.

The jury determined Littlefield was guilty of failing to keep a proper lookout but found him not guilty of the more serious charge of being under the influence of alcohol.

Littlefield, a news report says, had 10 days to file a motion asking the high court to reconsider its ruling. But, according to Assistant Attorney General Susan McGinnis, the court rarely grants such a request.

— Jason Fell

Coast Guard boat

runs aground

A 47-foot Coast Guard Motor Life Boat ran aground May 23 near Hopes Island in Luckse Sound, Maine. Experiencing gale force winds, the boat struck a submerged object and suffered hull damage and flooding.

According to a Coast Guard press release, the vessel, with a crew of four, was attempting to assist a disabled sailboat that was dragging its mooring. After its boat ran aground, the Coast Guard launched a 41-foot boat manned with a rescue and assistance team to dewater, help repair and initiate the salvage of the stranded 47-footer.

“It’s important to keep in perspective that this is a dangerous job,” says Petty Officer Luke Pinneo, a Coast Guard spokesperson. “There are many things that could factor into this accident.”

Pinneo says weather conditions were poor. It was raining hard, winds were kicking up between 35 and 40 knots and waves reached 6 feet. No Coast Guard crewmembers were injured during the accident.