Gov. Hochul Vetoes Seaweed Bill To Help New York Oyster Farms
Oysters are delicacy enjoyed by people around the world. Whether it's on raw on the half-shell with some lemon, fried to perfection with Old Bay seasoning or sautéed over pasta with wine and garlic, the pearl generating shellfish are loved globally. Oyster farming is nearly a $70 million agriculture industry in New York State. The tasty mollusks also happen to be environmental clean-up dynamos. Currently, tens of millions of the shellfish, not to be consumed by humans, are being used as a natural filter for the polluted waters off of New York City. However, an expansion of a project that has shown to increase the growth of consumable oysters in New York waters has been shelved by Governor Kathy Hochul.
In 2021, Hochul approved a “pilot” project by researchers from Stony Brook University's School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences. According to newsday.com, the project grew large areas of kelp, a native seaweed in New York waters, close to developing oyster farms. The research showed that the increased kelp coverage "sharply increased the oysters’ growth by reducing acidification. Without it, the study found, shellfish growth was stunted by acidification, which is caused by increased levels of carbon dioxide dissolving into the oceans." A bill to expand the project, involving the leasing of additional New York State underwater land, was passed recently by the NYS Legislature.
However, according to newsday.com, Governor, Kathy Hochul has vetoed the expansion. “Assessing potential environmental conflicts, commercial and recreational user conflicts and spatial planning must be undertaken before further leasing is considered. It is premature to consider a broader leasing program for seaweed aquaculture on state-owned lands at this time, as the state is still considering the pilot program,” the governor wrote in a statement that accompanied the veto. I agree that projects should be vetted before being expanded. However the research and results that have been found early on, cannot be ignored. This project could have far greater impacts than just on the oyster industry for New York State. Kelp growth could help seafood supplies around the world.