Kelp potential

[USA] A decade ago, that word didn’t mean much to anyone who didn’t spend lots of time in health food stores. Now, nearly everyone knows about the leafy green stuff.

It’s good-for-you reputation is spreading rapidly — propelling an annual sales growth of 43.3 percent from 2010 to 2014, according to the Chicago-based Nielsen Perishables Group and reported in the industry trade publication The Packer.

“In 2014, kale dollar and volume sales increased 31.8 percent and 28.1 percent respectively compared to the previous year,” The Packer reported earlier this year.

Kale accounted for about $97 million in produce department sales in 2014, according to The Packer.

That’s respectable. But it’s not yet up to the estimated $5 billion worldwide market commanded by another healthy natural food that begins with the letter “K.”

Kelp.

That’s right. Kelp.

Some of the same stuff that’s growing right off Ketchikan’s shoreline is used not only for food products such as snacks, cakes, dairy products, puddings, salad dressings and frozen foods, it’s also used in the manufacture of toothpastes, shampoos and some pharmaceuticals, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Some uses of seaweeds have been occurring for many, many years. Alaska Natives have traditionally used species such as giant kelp, bull kelp, black seaweed and ribbon seaweed for food and trade items, according to Dolly Garza’s book, “Common Edible Seaweeds in the Gulf of Alaska.”

All of this sounds like an opportunity for Ketchikan and the surrounding area.

Recently in Ketchikan, Alaska Shellfish Growers Association members attended a workshop about kelp farming, hearing from a seaweed grower from Maine, a seaweed investor from California and a seaweed researcher from the University of Alaska Southeast.

The Ketchikan-based OceansAlaska is already growing “seeding longlines” of local-origin kelp species to provide to growers soon, according to the Alaska Sea Grant program.

Beau Perry of the California-based Premium Oceanic firm that’s begun investing in seaweed growing in Alaska, told workshop attendees that many of Southeast Alaska’s edible species of seaweed “could be used to make the nori sheets used for sushi,” according to the Alaska Sea Grant’s “Fishlines” newsletter — which adds that Perry sees great potential for seaweed farming in Alaska’s cold, clean waters, and believes there is a huge market for it.”
Gary Freitag, the Ketchikan-based Alaska Sea Grant Marine Advisory agent, told Fishlines that mariculturalists have been responding positively.

“I’m getting lots of non-farmers calling me with interest in doing it as well, which is a good sign,” Freitag said in Fishlines.

This is encouraging news. Southern Southeast Alaska has for years been interested in seeing the mariculture industry grow to become a significant contributor to the regional economy. The addition of kelp and other seaweeds to a mariculture product mix that already includes oysters and geoduck clams could be a catalyst for that kind of industry growth, providing the region with another sustainable natural resource product with which to diversify and strengthen the economy.

We’re looking forward to seeing how this develops.

 

View original article at: Dulse and Rugosa visits herring gut

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