Kelp, a slippery seaweed, could be major moneymaker

What’s being done now

Cultivating kelp in town or privately owned waters and creeks wouldn’t require a change in law, said Chris Pickerell, director of Cornell’s marine program. However, state-owned lands — where many local aquaculture farms exist — would need to amend current legislation to allow for seaweed cultivation.

Ms. Rivara is one of more than 40 growers taking advantage of state-owned land through Suffolk County’s Shellfish Aquaculture Lease Program, which gives area growers access to underwater lands for farming in the Peconic Bay.

Many other shellfish farmers operate on state-owned lands leased in the Long Island Sound, she said. Currently, she said, there’s no way to apply for a permit for seaweed cultivation on state-controlled lands.

“We don’t have the legal mechanism to do it,” she said.

Mr. Pickerell said that “In the simplest sense, it is a matter of adding the words ‘seaweed cultivation’ into the current law.”

He said he’s been working with County Legislator Al Krupski (D-Cutchogue) and state Assemblymen Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor) to create legislation to change the law. Ms. Rivara has spoken with Mr. Bellone in hopes of initiating the change.

Senator Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) said a kelp industry would “both lead to job creation and stimulate our economy, while cleaning our waters.”

In a letter supporting Cornell’s pilot cultivation study, Mr. Bellone called the industry’s potential “an extremely interesting, and potentially lucrative, economic development opportunity.” He added that the program will help “develop policies that can help grow and support the industry.”

Cornell has applied for grant funding from both the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority’s Cleaner, Greener Communities grant program. It hopes to raise enough money to plan, design, construct and acquire the equipment necessary for a start-up kelp farm.

Mr. Palumbo said, “I would like to see the results of the program so we can see how to manage it [the industry] properly, to find that happy medium so that we can both reduce nitrogen and produce an additional product that can be sold,” adding that the right environmental groups are involved in the project.

From a community standpoint, Mr. LaValle said, the project “will help ensure the maritime industry of aquaculture remains viable, and create new opportunities for the next generation to work on the water.”

He said he has written a letter to the state, which runs NYSERDA, in hopes of receiving project funding from them.

“This is a win-win for everything,” Mr. Pickerell said. “We need to get all of our ducks in a row in terms of the regulatory approvals.”

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