Everything Alaskans want to know about growing seaweed in our state

September 7, 2017

2 people in boat hold kelp Checking a longline outplanting of sugar kelp at an experimental site near Coghlan Island, Alaska. Photo by Mike Stekoll

Alaskans are starting to show interest in seaweed culture in the state. Worldwide demand for seaweed has soared over the past 50 years, far outstripping supply, and ocean farming of seaweed is currently valued at $4-5 billion.

To answer questions Alaskans are asking about the industry, Alaska Sea Grant’s Gary Freitag wrote the bulletin Seaweed Farming in Alaska. He describes a few hurdles that need solving, steps to take to get a permit, and how to set up and tend the longlines seeded with kelp on the farm. The eight-page publication is available free online.

illustration of kelp growing lines

Freitag points out that raising seaweed can be compatible with fishing. The kelp harvest happens before the the busy salmon season in Alaska, and the seaweed industry could take advantage of tenders and processing plant infrastructure during the off season.

“Since the webinar that we presented on the potential of seaweed farming, in February, I receive 2–3 inquiries per week for information and assistance to Alaskans throughout the state who want to get involved in the seaweed farming industry,” said Freitag.

Alaska’s potential for cultivation of kelp and other seaweeds is high, given its vast natural marine habitat with pristine water quality.

seaweed hanging on a clotheslineKelp drying on a clothesline. Photo by Carter Newell.

Increasing demand for seaweeds in the food, pharmaceutical, and animal feed industries will likely expand markets in years to come. Awareness of the medical benefits that seaweed provides is boosting demand for seaweed snacks and other creative food products for human consumption.

In 2016, Alaska Governor Bill Walker created the Alaska Mariculture Task Force, charged with developing a plan that will grow Alaska mariculture opportunities. As part of the task force, Alaska Sea Grant is providing technical assistance and supporting research in partnership with industry to develop kelp mariculture as a new industry for Alaska.

Written by Sue Keller

Alaska Sea Grant is a statewide marine research, education, and outreach program, and is a partnership between the University of Alaska Fairbanks and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Alaska Sea Grant Marine Advisory Program agents provide assistance that helps Alaskans wisely use, conserve, and enjoy marine and coastal resources.