New legislation bodes well for Kelp’s future in the East End
The waters of the East End will soon be part of the growing kelp farming industry thanks to new legislation co-sponsored by Congressman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. (I-Sag Harbor) and Democratic Senator for the 9th District of New York, Todd Kaminsky, and signed into law by Governor Kathy Hochul on Tuesday, December 7.
Promoting kelp aquaculture locally, the bill (A.7547-A / S.6532-A) allows the cultivation of kelp in the underwater lands of Gardiners Bay and Peconic Bays.
Kelp, which is native to New York waters, plays an important role in the fight to restore the health of our waterways and is a natural habitat for fish and shellfish in New York State waters. . Kelp cultivation is a growing industry with significant economic, health and environmental benefits, according to an announcement sent by Assembly Member Thiele after the bill was approved by Hochul. “As New York City continues to tackle climate change and nitrogen pollution, sustainable kelp farming can deliver substantial environmental benefits to the state,” the announcement explains. “In addition to the environmental benefits, this new law will also create jobs for our maritime businesses. “
Assembly Member Thiele said: “I have continued to pass this legislation for years as studies have shown the benefits of kelp in removing nitrogen from our waters. Cultivating this environmentally and economically viable product will foster a growing industry that will help restore water quality and fish habitats in the East End while creating jobs for our traditional maritime businesses. I am delighted that New York is now joining other states that have already established commercial kelp and seaweed aquaculture programs. I thank Governor Hochul for promulgating this bill.
To show exactly how versatile kelp can be, Greenport Harbor Brewing Company released a unique, rugged carrier in 2018 with local sugar kelp harvested by Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE). It’s long gone, but was showcased at a special kelp art and awareness event that featured kelp-derived products, such as soaps and food products, demonstrating that kelp offers a wide range applications in the culinary, pharmaceutical, agricultural and cosmetic industries.
Another local business, The Montauk Seaweed Supply Company, spent nearly a decade researching and developing the kelp and seaweed market before officially launching this year. The company is now producing, for the first time, artisanal crops in small batches of premium farmed kelp and wild seaweed. The harvest arrives at their partner facilities in Montauk Harbor, and they have started to carefully stabilize the deliveries of raw materials into ready-to-market fertilizer products. In doing so, the Montauk Seaweed Supply Company is also making a concerted effort to improve the health of local waters.
In May of this year, Christopher Gobler, Endowed Chair of Coastal Ecology and Conservation at Stony Brook Southampton School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences (SoMAS) Marine Science Center, spoke funding program it would be the first in New York State to offer “nitrogen credit” payments for growing kelp. He said oyster farmers cultivated experimental kelp beds last winter to study kelp’s role in nitrogen reduction.
The results showed that kelp, grown out of season when boaters are less active on local waterways, can be a very effective tool for reducing nitrogen in local waters. Gobler said his lab has used grants over the past three years to grow sugar kelp on 10 different oyster farms, producing 10,000 pounds of kelp while removing 36 pounds of nitrogen. Kelp farmers participating in the program could potentially produce over 70,000 pounds of kelp on one-acre farms and help extract 200 pounds of nitrogen from the waters, earning hundreds of dollars in credits in a season when they are largely out of the water.
With this new legislation, the East End’s use of locally grown kelp will be limited only by the imagination of those who harvest it.