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Seaweed helps Maine lobstermen ride the storm of climate change

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Once you harvest seaweed you’re removing carbon with it and abandoning a wholesome body of water.”

Justin Papkee, somebody farmer with Atlantic Sea Farms, hauls up kelp lines by using his crew, Jim Ranaghan and Chris Papkee, off Long Island, Maine, in 2021. Nicole Wolf

By Kathy Gunst, Washington Post

FALMOUTH, Maine Its harvest time on Casco Bay.

Briana Warner is dressed because of this late spring morning in padded rubber overalls, raincoat, rubber boots and neon yellow gloves which come up above her elbows. Just off the coast of Falmouth, she hangs off the medial side of a Zodiac boat and runs on the gaff (hook) to hoist from the water a neon green buoy mounted on a thick white rope. Warner struggles and lastly gets her hands round the rope. The line drips with long, shimmering, translucent ribbons of green sugar kelp.

Warners face lights up as she inspects the seaweed. Theyre ready for harvest, she declares.

Because the CEO and president of Atlantic Sea Farms, the 38-year-old Warner is using seaweed to quietly revolutionize Maines struggling fishing industry.

Along the Maine coast, a large number of lines such as this have already been planted by fishermen growing seaweed together with her company. In the fall, the fishermen plant tiny kelp seeds on the 1,000-foot-long ropes, and by late spring, mounted on each is near 6,000 pounds of fresh sugar kelp. The seaweed is harvested, flash frozen and used to create kelp cubes for smoothies, and also seaweed salad, seaweed kraut and much more.

Seaweed is Maines new cash crop.

For generations, coastal Maine has been supported by way of a different underwater resource: the lobster. Lobstering is woven into just about any facet of life in coastal communities; tax revenue, jobs, and the states identity all be determined by it. But as climate change causes Maines coastal waters to warm, underwater life, and the economy built around it, has shifted dramatically.

The Gulf of Maine is warming faster than 96% of the worlds oceans increasing for a price of 0.09 degrees each year. These warming temperatures have forced the lobster population to migrate north seeking colder waters, and the effect on Maine fishermen has been profound.

Keith Miller, 67, a second-generation lobsterman, has been lobstering for a lot more than 50 years, fishing in Wheelers Bay between Spruce Head and Tenants Harbor. When he saw the dramatic impact of climate change on his industry he knew he previously to arrange for the half a year of the entire year between fall and spring when he couldnt catch lobster. He found out about an application in Rockland, Maine, at the Island Institute (which helps coastal communities thrive) educating lobstermen about aquaculture.

I possibly could select from oyster farming, mussel farming or kelp, says Miller in his thick Maine accent. Water round here’s too shallow for mussels, and oysters certainly are a year-round job. I needed to help keep lobstering half the entire year, therefore i chose seaweed.

At that time, Warner was the Island Institutes first economic development officer. A former Foreign Service diplomat, she says shes been thinking about finding solutions instead of being section of the problem. After serving in Libya, Guinea and many other countries, she moved to Maine with her husband (who was raised in hawaii) and started a family group. Her goal was to use her diplomatic skills to creating a difference in the us coastal and food communities.

The question we asked was this: In communities where lobster is everything, just how do we plan the future across the Maine coast and diversify to handle climate change? says Warner. When youre self-employed as well as your entire community would depend using one industry, and youre totally at the whim of OUR MOTHER EARTH, overdependence using one monoculture is quite scary.

Miller is one of the dozen lobstermen accepted in to the aquaculture program. He describes the final five years hes spent farming seaweed in the offseason as life changing.

My first year kelping I earned 2,200 pounds, he says. But this season my harvest was 170,000 pounds. I keep telling folks, My ship is to arrive!’

In summer 2018, Warner was offered the positioning of CEO at Atlantic Sea Farms. When she started, two kelp farms were yielding around 30,000 pounds total. The business now works together with 27 partner farmers, and the 2022 harvest earned slightly below 1 million pounds of seaweed. The companys products are actually sold in a lot more than 2,000 stores in the united states, in addition to in restaurants and college cafeterias. In 2021 the business was in charge of 85% of the line-produced seaweed in the united kingdom.

Another farmer the business works together with is Justin Papkee, 31, who fishes near Long Island in Casco Bay. This country is way behind others in focusing on how good kelp is for you personally and the surroundings, Papkee says. Briana does an excellent job determining methods to market it.

Papkee, who still lobsters year-round and farms kelp a couple of days a week through the harvest season, says hes in a position to maintain his crew of three year-round and generate more income. Although hes hesitant to speak about money, he says this season, after four seasons of kelp farming, he could be in the black.

Warner calls seaweed a shock absorber contrary to the volatility of the lobster industry. When she discusses seaweed and the, her speech gains momentum and her passion is on display. The great thing about kelp is that it’s probably the most climate-friendly food it is possible to eat! Seaweed, she explains, is farmed without land, pesticides or fresh water.

Environmentally friendly great things about growing seaweed go even more. Theres so much carbon in the air, so when carbon hits the ocean surface the ocean absorbs it and changes the pH and degrades shellfish, explains Warner. Seaweed absorbs the carbon and nitrogen in the water. Once you harvest seaweed you’re removing carbon with it and abandoning a wholesome body of water.

Warner is quick to indicate that growing seaweed isn’t a climate change solution. It really is, she explains, a climate change adaptation strategy. It is best than other things we are able to eat. But seaweed, Warner says, might have an enormous local climate change effect. To illustrate her point, she says that whenever mussels are planted on ropes underwater following a kelp harvest, the shell strength is nearly doubly strong in those areas, because of removing the surplus carbon.

Until recently, seaweed was always sold dried and, frequently, originated from Asia or was harvested from the wild in U.S. waters. Atlantic Sea Farms is one of the American companies that sells seaweed that’s never dyed or dried. After it really is flash frozen its used to create kelp cubes, a nutritious boost to smoothies, salad dressings and sauces. In raw form the seaweed adds crunch and a briny, umami-rich flavor to seaweed salad, Sea-Beet Kraut, and a undertake kimchi called Sea-Chi.

In accordance with Lia Heifetz, 31, of Barnacle Foods in Juneau, Alaska, seaweed can be an ocean multivitamin. Its abundant with potassium, iron, magnesium, calcium and antioxidants. Heifetz and her two partners harvest wild bull kelp seaweed (that is prolific round the shores of Juneau) along with farmed kelp. Bull kelp is exclusive since it can grow a stipe (or stem) that’s 30 feet long, and, in accordance with Heifetz, supplies a unique texture and flavor much like apples and fresh bell pepper. Barnacle Foods freezes the kelp and uses it to create hot sauce, salsa, pickles, Bloody Mary mixes and much more. Heifetz hopes to improve the quantity of kelp farming they do in coming years, but says in Alaska and several other areas of the united states obtaining permits and licenses involves lengthy hurdles.

We’ve a distinctive opportunity within Alaska, she says. We’ve 30,000 miles of coast in hawaii, primarily undeveloped. Individuals are searching for a solution to use their food dollars to aid causes which are vital that you them. And seaweed checks all of the boxes.

Warner in addition has been spreading the term concerning the power of seaweed. She was recently invited to the 2022 Davos World Economic Forum to speak within an application for 20 ecopreneurs. She focused her talk on Americas broken food system and the prospect of Maines seaweed aquaculture industry as a model where people and the earth come first. But mostly, she says, she tried to leave the very best leaders who attended the annual summit with something positive.

What were doing with seaweed in Maine, she told them, is giving people hope and giving people a chance to snatch their very own future when confronted with an extremely uncertain climate.

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