ALBANY — Gov. Kathy Hochul has vetoed a bill to expand seaweed cultivation in New York’s marine waters, saying the state needs time to assess a related test project before moving forward.
At issue is a growing move to encourage cultivation of seaweed, or kelp, in the ocean bed off New York’s shores. The idea has won support from fishermen, marine scientists and lawmakers, who note kelp’s ability to absorb nitrogen from water and provide a revenue stream for oyster farmers and others.
Some scientists also say seaweed could protect oysters from certain algae blooms.
Last year, Hochul, a Democrat, approved a “pilot” project for underwater lands in Peconic and Gardiner’s bays. The lands are owned by the state but administered by Suffolk County, which grants leasing for shellfishing and seaweed cultivation. The project is authorized through 2026.
This year, Long Island lawmakers successfully pushed a bill through the State Legislature that would allow the leasing of other state-owned underwater lands.
But the governor vetoed it, saying it was too soon.
“Assessing potential environmental conflicts, commercial and recreational user conflicts and spatial planning must be undertaken before” further leasing is considered, Hochul wrote in a statement accompanying the veto.
“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 said.
Assemb. Fred Thiele (D-Sag Harbor), who sponsored the expansion bill, called the veto a “missed opportunity” to boost marine businesses. He said he understands Hochul’s reasoning and plans to push the bill in the future.
“Work is being done on the economic viability of this and I’m willing to wait and see,” Thiele said Wednesday. “I know there’s a lot of interest, so hopefully we’ll eventually see an expansion.”