Cuomo signs seagrass protection law

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Activities that threaten seagrass along New York’s coastlines will face new regulations under legislation Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed into law Tuesday. The law charges the Department of Environmental Conservation with crafting new regulations that will protect designated “seagrass management areas.”

“It’s going to improve the waters around Long Island for those who use it for both recreational and commercial purposes,” said Assemb. Robert Sweeney (D-Lindenhurst), who sponsored the bill in his chamber and had been pushing for greater protections for years. “This is a significant step forward after decades of seeing a decline in seagrass beds around Long Island and not coincidentally a decline in our commercial and recreational fisheries.”

The state has lost nearly 90 percent of its seagrass over the past 80 years, according to the governor’s office, which said that only 21,803 acres remain. Seagrass provides an important habitat for fish and shell fish.

The law empowers the DEC to craft new regulations in consultation with local interests including commercial fishing and recreational boating companies. The use of mechanically powered fishing gear will be restricted under those regulations, according to the governor’s office.

“Seagrass beds in New York State are a vital habitat for many species of fish, and by endangering the seagrass, we risk losing some of our vibrant marine life,” Cuomo said in a news release. “This bill will stop many of the practices that have been causing our seagrass to die. We can no longer turn a blind eye to procedures that threaten our environment.”

State Sen. Owen Johnson (R-West Babylon) sponsored the bill in his chamber.

The law takes effect in 150 days.

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