Is the Solution to Pollution Aquafarming?

Posted on Friday, May 29th, 2020 | Posted in News

New Mapping Project Promotes Bioextraction on Long Island Sound

There’s a new tool on the Long Island Sound Study’s website that can help shellfish and seaweed farmers find the best sites for aquaculture while also removing nutrient pollution from the Sound.

Photo Credit Nelle D’Aversa

A NEIWPCC environmental analyst completed an ArcGIS-based “Aquaculture Viewer” for the Long Island Sound in May 2020.

By consolidating data from many sources, this interactive map can help identify the Connecticut and New York coastal areas most suitable for shellfish and seaweed farming—the ultimate goal being to promote more nutrient removal from the Sound, through a process called bioextraction.


The Sound’s waters are considered impaired by excessive nitrogen loading, largely from wastewater treatment facilities and nonpoint sources like fertilizer.

This kind of water pollution triggers a biochemical procession called eutrophication that creates oxygen-depleted “dead zones.”

Since 2018, NEIWPCC has been partnering with the New York State DEC, the Long Island Regional Planning Council, the Long Island Sound Study, and others to explore whether bioextraction is a solution to nutrient pollution on the Sound.

Nutrient bioextraction is the innovative and relatively new process of practicing aquafarming for the purpose of mitigating nutrient pollution.

The concept behind bioextraction is fairly simple: seaweed and shellfish absorb large amounts of nitrogen and other nutrients from water as they grow; harvesting them removes those nutrients from the water.

Partnering for Success

The Aquaculture Viewer is the first phase out of one project, out of several projects being conducted under the umbrella of the Nutrient Bioextraction Initiative—the partnership between NYSDEC, NEIWPCC, LISS, and the Long Island Regional Planning Council.

In the future, the Initiative plans to:

  • augment the Aquaculture Viewer with more modeling capabilities,
  • publish a guide to help shellfish farmers—new, old, or prospective—navigate the state of New York’s aquaculture permitting processes, and
  • publish results of an ongoing pilot project to study how effective sugar kelp is as a fertilizer.