New York State is allocating more than $2 million to a program that will grow and seed clams and oysters in the bays off eastern Long Island, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Friday.
The money was earmarked for Sea Grant, which will also use the funding to support research into improving water quality by working to reverse decades of pollution.
“We don’t even know what we don’t know about the water,” Cuomo said. “We’re now finding contaminants that are dangerous to our health, that wasn’t even on the scale before.”
The support for Sea Grant came as the President Donald Trump’s proposed budget includes cuts to the environmental program.
The short-term goal is to produce about 30 million clams in Shinnecock Bay to reduce pollution. At appropriate levels, these shellfish can filter nitrogen to reduce brown tide, which has been a problem across Long Island since the 1980s.
Brown tides are caused by nitrogen pollution that create an overabundance of algae, making the water appear brown. Though it is not toxic to the environment, it can deplete the ecosystem by blocking the amount of sunlight that penetrates the water. Shellfish naturally help clean the water, combatting brown tides.
The long-term goal is to seed hundreds of millions of shellfish to further reduce pollution and assist Long Island’s economy, which relies on the health of local fisheries and waterways. When other facilities are created to breed shellfish, the state government will provide funding to them as well.
The effort is several efforts aimed at improving water quality on LI, including initiatives designed to replace antiquated residential septic systems that leach nitrogen into the groundwater, feeding the brown tides.