Governor Andrew Cuomo helped release thousands of oysters and other juvenile shellfish on Saturday afternoon, as part of a statewide effort to improve the health of New York's waterways. "We polluted and we destroyed the natural defenses that were built in originally by Mother Nature. We did both. We made it worse and destroyed the system that was there to protect it and to clean it. So, what do you have to do?" he said. "Stop doing harm. Stop the pollution. Clean it up. And then restore the natural systems."
Cuomo pledged to make restoration of New York State's waterways and aquatic habitats one of his top concerns, calling the effort "Revive Mother Nature." He referenced how the Hudson River had been polluted (thanks, General Electric) and cleaned up, but restoration was the next step.
"When Henry Hudson first came up this river, there were 350 square miles of oysters," Cuomo recounted in Battery Park. "One oyster filters about 30 gallons of water per day. We destroyed the oyster population and the oyster reefs. That was the natural filtration system. The original oyster reefs could filter the entire volume of New York Harbor in just a few days. Just think about that. The natural system - the oysters alone - filtered the entire volume of the New York Harbor in just a few days. That is now wiped out and that has gone. And today we announce the beginning of a very aggressive approach to restore the oysters and restore the habitat."
Cuomo said the goal is to "to restore the natural systems that existed in rivers and lakes and bays... at the most aggressive rate possible, " which would include restocking fish upstate and clams off Long Island.
"We'll have the full program outlined in January," he added, referring to his upcoming 2020 State of the State address, but the governor's office said that $1.5 million would be used for an "enhanced habitat for 5 to 10 million oysters" in the Hudson River Park's Estuarine Sanctuary. The full cost of the initiative will be released in January.