[USA] Atlantic Clam Farms of Connecticut is looking to harvest a native species of sea kelp in Long Island Sound.
The company, which cultivates hundreds of acres of Greenwich waters for shellfishing, wants to begin its kelp farm in Payea Reach — southeast of Great Captains Island and southwest of Island Beach — and offer the seaweed for human consumption and other commercial uses after an awaited approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
“It’s kind of a new thing,” said McCain Brown, of Atlantic Clam Farms. “Seaweed or kelp is being used as a biofuel and is also considered a superfood when it’s the right quality, and the industry in the United States is new, or budding.
“It’s just something we are taking an interest in and because we have the land to do it we are going to experiment,” he said. “And if we can sell it and it’s a good business, maybe we will grow it a little bit more.”
If the kelp farm is approved, set up at the four-acre area would begin on or after Nov. 1 each calendar year, and the crop harvest and lines would be removed by June 1.
According to the application, once seeded in November, growing lines would be tended at least once a week and hauled in and examined monthly. Buoys would be added or changed to accommodate the increasing weight of the seaweed and ensure adequate buoyancy and line tension.
The area at Payea Reach is an Essential Fish Habitat, according to the New England and Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council.
The Army Corps has made a preliminary determination that kelp farming should be safe. It will further consult with the National Marine Fisheries Service about conservation recommendations before making a final permit decision.
University of Connecticut Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Professor Charles Yarish, who has developed 27 kelp farms on the East Coast and many others on the West Coast, said the farms benefit marine life.
“From the work we have seen from the Long Island Sound all the way up to the Canadian border, we have seen fish accumulation,” Yarish said. “The fish are coming up as kelp is growing in the area. … And the private sector is doing this to improve fish habitat quality.
“There are other aspects of the kelp farms (that are very important as well),” he said, “and it has to do with the ecosystem services — of removing excess nitrogen, pulling out carbon (from) the water.”
“We know that it’s good to be diverse,” said Brown, of Atlantic Clam Farms. “And aquaculture is the practice of sustainability, so we’d like to try something that’s pretty sustainable, like growing kelp.
“It’s good for the water column. It’s good for sea life … This is something that is drawing the pollutants out of the water, and it provides habitat for a lot of sea life in the time it’s out there — it provides a little shelter.”
Greenwich town officials said the project has received their approval.
“It’s a very positive thing because kelp, or seaweed in general farming helps remove nitrogen from the water,” said Shellfish Chairman Roger Bowgen. “And also, this particular farm will be on shellfish beds, and you can market it. There’s a huge market for kelp and seaweed.”
The Harbor Management Commission has also approved of the idea.
The window for public comment about the proposal is open through Friday. Comments can be submitted in writing to US Army Corps of Engineers, New England District, 696 Virginia Road, Concord, Mass. 01742-2751.
“We will have a better idea if there are any issues or concerns from the public or agencies after,” said Army Corps media contact Tim Dugan.
Photo: hotos from Atlantic Clam Farms clamming boat in the waters of the Long Island Sound off the coast of Greenwich, Conn. in the summer of 2016. Ed Stilwagen is the owner of Atlantic Clam Farms, based in Port Chester, N.Y., and is hoping to expand the company to include commercial kelp harvesting. Tyler Sizemore / Hearst Connecticut Media
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