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Suffolk County Launches New Seaweed Cultivation Project

Sydney A. Braat

Kelp in eelgrass. (Photo: Cornell Cooperative Extension Marine Program)

Attention all sea lovers! State Senator Ken LaValle and State Assemblyman Fred Thiele recently passed legislation that authorizes Suffolk County to allow certain underwater lands in Gardiner's and Peconic Bays to be used for the implementation of a pilot program to conduct research and scientific assessment of the feasibility of cultivating seaweed.

"Seaweed aquaculture is an emerging 'green industry' that can offer considerable environmental and economic benefits to the region," said Kimberly Barbour, Marine Program Outreach Manager at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County. "This industry holds the potential to improve water quality via bioextraction of water column nitrogen and carbon, while producing a high-demand, renewable product."

Neighboring states, such as Connecticut and Maine, show evidence that seaweed and macroalagae cultivation can cause an economically viable market product. This also has the benefit of being a nutrient sink, removing excess nitrogen from estuarine waters. Through these efforts, the project will be helping the sea and the people who enjoy it.

Kelp in the Long Island Sound by Kim Manzo. (Photo: Cornell Cooperative Extension Marine Program)

"Suffolk County residents should look at this emerging industry as an important piece of the puzzle when it comes to solving our excess nitrogen issue, and addressing the need for economic opportunities and job creation in the maritime industry," said Barbour. "Growth and harvest of seaweeds leads to the direct removal of excess nitrogen from the water; this has been tested and proven by researchers at UCONN and our experts at Cornell Cooperative Extension Marine Program will be building upon this research through our Kelp Aquaculture Feasibility Study that we recently received funding for through Suffolk County Water Quality Protection and Restoration Program. Through this study, we'll be able to further define the tangible environmental and economic benefits that a seaweed aquaculture industry would bring to our area."

This legislation is on its way to the Governor for further consideration.

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