New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. (I, D, WF-Sag Harbor) announced Governor Cuomo has signed legislation he co-sponsored which would allow New York State to further protect marine and coastal seagrass populations.
The Seagrass Protection Act will provide the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation with the authority to designate seagrass management areas and develop management plans to address site specific threats; regulate coastal and marine activities which can harm seagrass and seagrass restoration efforts; identify water quality impacts on seagrasses; and, expand seagrass education efforts.
As Assemblyman Thiele explained, “This legislation is so desperately needed. There was a time in the not so distant past that eelgrass was synonymous with the Peconic Bays. Now, there is virtually none remaining in East End waters. We must do everything and anything we can to protect what is left before it disappears entirely. Now is the time for action.”
Seagrasses, underwater rooted vascular plants, function as vital habitat and nursery grounds for numerous commercially, recreationally and ecologically important fish and shellfish species, including the infamous Peconic Bay scallop. Seagrasses also serve a major role in the nutrient and carbon cycles, and provide an important food source for fish and waterfowl. Several simultaneous impacts have contributed to seagrass declines in New York and throughout the world. These impacts include increased nutrient loadings, decreased water quality and clarity, large phytoplankton blooms, habitat degradation, fishing gear and boating activities, and climate change.