Seaweed farming inspires high hopes in Alaska for economic and environmental benefits

seaweed cultivation

Tiffany Stephens, left, works at the Seagrove Kelp farm in Doyle Bay near Craig on April 14, 2021. (Photo by Jordan A. Hollarsmith/NOAA Fisheries, Alaska Fisheries Science Center)

To optimists, the plants that grow in the sea promise to diversify the Alaska economy, revitalize small coastal towns struggling with undependable fisheries and help communities adapt to climate change – and even mitigate it by absorbing atmospheric carbon.

Cultivation of seaweed, largely varieties of kelp, promises to buffer against ocean acidification and coastal pollution, the promoters say. Seaweed farms can produce ultra-nutritious crops to boost food security in Alaska and combat hunger everywhere, and not just for human beings.

“Kelp is good for everybody. It’s good for people. It’s good for animals,” Kirk Sparks, with Pacific Northwest Organics, a California company that sells agricultural products, said in a panel discussion at a mariculture conference held in Juneau in February by the Alaska Sea Grant program.

But before it achieves these broad benefits, Alaska’s mariculture industry must first address significant practical issues, including an American consumer market that has yet to broadly embrace seaweed.

There is encouraging scientific evidence that seaweed cultivation buffers acidification locally, as described in studies from various projects, including some from ChinaCalifornia and New York. Seaweed farming “could serve as a low-cost adaptation strategy to ocean acidification and deoxygenation and provide important refugia from ocean acidification,” said the study from China, published in 2021 in the journal Science of the Total Environment.

But does seaweed farming result in absorption of atmospheric carbon and prevention of it streaming back into the atmosphere? The answer is complicated, according to the science. It depends on what happens to the kelp. If dead and decomposing bits are on land or in shallow waters, they would likely release carbon back into the atmosphere, scientists say.

Yereth Rosen, Alaska Public Media, 13 March 2023. Full article.

  • Reset


OA-ICC Highlights

%d bloggers like this: