County releases new seaweed cultivation plan

Aquaculture Lease Program expansion


Suffolk County executive Steve Bellone recently announced the county will issue a request for proposal (RFP) for the development of a new Seaweed Cultivation Program in Peconic Bay and Gardiners Bay. The program is designed to build upon the county’s existing efforts to enhance the county’s aquaculture and regional water quality. 

“With a rich history in agricultural and aquaculture, the development of a seaweed cultivation program will not only explore innovative approaches to marine agriculture, but will support our local economy, promote environmental sustainability, and create new opportunities for our farmers,” said Bellone. “I encourage interested organizations to participate in this exciting venture as we work together to ensure a more sustainable future for Suffolk County.”

Seaweed cultivation is a new farming activity that has not previously been conducted on a commercial scale in Peconic or Gardiners bays. Under New York State Environmental Conservation Law, seaweed cultivation is now permitted provided that state and local requirements are adhered to. The cultivation plan builds upon the county’s existing Seaweed Cultivation Pilot Program facilitated in partnership with Stony Brook University that is expected to be completed by 2024.

Long Island has a rich heritage in aquaculture farming, and Suffolk County has undertaken a number of actions to protect this vital industry, which helps sustain the county’s economic growth by generating tourism dollars, supporting local restaurants and service industries, and providing fresh produce for residents.

The Aquaculture Lease Program, first adopted in 2009 and implemented in 2010, provides secure access to marine space for private and commercial shellfish aquaculture in publicly-owned underwater lands in Peconic Bay and Gardiners Bay for the purpose of shellfish cultivation. The goal of the program is to address the access needs of existing shellfish aquaculture businesses, while also accommodating growth in the industry.

Under the county’s existing aquaculture lease program, ten leases were executed in Peconic Bay and Gardiners Bay, with eight of them granted to new farmers entering the program in 2023. Additionally, three lease renewals were granted to existing aquaculture farmers, extending their access to lease locations for an additional 10 years.

Currently managing 43 leases and lease site overlays covering a total area of 570 acres of underwater land in the Peconic Estuary, Suffolk County continues to promote sustainable aquaculture practices and support local shellfish farmers. Suffolk County is the highest-ranked county in New York State related to total sales among aquaculture and is ranked fourth in agricultural total sales.

The selected consultant will guide the county in developing a comprehensive program for seaweed cultivation and will be tasked with exploring the implementation of seaweed cultivation, assessing environmental impact, and supporting the program’s adoption. 

The Suffolk County Department of Economic Development & Planning will additionally conduct extensive stakeholder outreach, including public meetings in each of the five East End towns, so the seaweed cultivation program is developed with local concerns in mind.