Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo kissed a clam and tossed it overboard into Bellport Bay on Thursday as he marked the halfway point of a plan to stock 1.6 million shellfish in the area.
Cuomo said the $10.4 million plan to spread clams and oysters in five Long Island bays through 2021 will help filter the water and work to restore a once-thriving local industry. In total, 179 million clams and oysters will be deposited in the sanctuaries on both shores of the Island.
“We’re going to meet our goal … and then we’re going to double it,” he said at the Bellport dock before setting off on a boat.
These clams are not for eating. Most are being deposited in shellfish sanctuaries now closed to harvesting because of bacteria, officials said.
Past efforts to spread clams in Great South Bay have failed, defeated by predators or harmful algal blooms. Chris Gobler, professor at Stony Brook University's School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, said this program is different because it uses larger, adult clams in a more targeted area.
Cuomo, along with Sen. Monica Martinez (D-Brentwood), Nassau County Executive Laura Curran and Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos, dumped bushels of clams over the side.
While dropping the clams, and as photographers snapped pictures, Cuomo's Bellport Bay Yacht Club baseball cap fell into the water. It was rescued by a DEC environmental conservation officer in a second boat with a net, and returned to the governor.
"My lucky hat!" Cuomo declared before putting the wet cap back on.
The money for the shellfish program was approved by lawmakers in 2017. The program was supposed to be completed in two years, but will be extended through 2021, Seggos said.
In addition to Bellport Bay, the program is spreading shellfish in Hempstead Bay, Huntington Harbor, Shinnecock Bay and South Oyster Bay.