Applied Research for a New Seaweed Aquaculture Industry in Alaska
University of Alaska Southeast
- Ann E. Thomson, program
The proposed research has the objective to address major constraints that limit the development and progress of developing seaweed aquaculture in Alaska. There has been increasing interest in seaweed aquaculture in the state. But currently, there is no commercial production of seaweed by any of the aquaculture farms in Alaska. The species that is most likely to have a ready market is the sugar kelp, Saccharina latissima. Although kelps have been under artificial culture for decades in other countries, little work has been accomplished on kelps in northern latitudes. The research proposed here addresses some critical questions, the answer to which will help create a viable seaweed aquaculture industry in the state. The objectives under this proposal are 1) to determine the timing of fertility of parent plants used to create seed, 2) to investigate ways to slow down the normal life cycle of the kelps to control the timing of outplanting, 3) to determine the best season, depth and location for outplanting the seeded lines, 4) to determine how to grow the kelps for the optimal quality, and finally 5) to determine whether strain selection is feasible with this species. The research involves both field and lab work. Fertility will be determined on plants collected by scuba throughout the year. Plants on seeded lines will be placed in the ocean throughout the year and at different depths. Oceanographic data will be collected and plant growth and quality monitored. Research on the alternate generation, gametophyte, will entail subjecting the microscopic plants to various conditions of light, temperature and nutrients to find ways to retard growth and reproduction. Strain selection will be examined using both parent plants and by making crosses using cloned gametophytes. Results of this research will be disseminated to interested parties by various means.
Project news can be found in the 2016 stories “University of Alaska professor receives Sea Grant funding for seaweed aquaculture research” from Alaska Sea Grant, “Investors bet on farmed kelp being Alaska's next seafood export” from Alaska Dispatch News, and “Southeast to begin seaweed farming soon” from Capital City Weekly.