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Shinnecock Kelp Farmers will expand its Southampton kelp farm

Shinnecock Kelp Farmers
The Nature Conservancy

The Shinnecock Kelp Farmers received a grant of $75,000 from The Nature Conservancy to help expand their kelp farm and hatchery in Shinnecock Bay on eastern Long Island.

As the first Indigenous-owned and operated seaweed farm on the East Coast, the Shinnecock Kelp Farmers’ mission is to improve water quality and restore marine habitats in the bay their tribe has fished for over 13,000 years.

The kelp farm was founded in 2020 by a multi-generational group of six Shinnecock women.

Tela Troge, director of Shinnecock Kelp Farmers, said she is excited to partner with The Nature Conservancy and continue to grow their farm.

“The Nature Conservancy of course has a huge land holding and they have been providing incredible access to their preserves in an effort to clean up the water and we are just really excited to grow together,” she said.

Kelp is a restorative crop and has the unique ability to soak up carbon and nitrogen out of heavily polluted water bodies as it grows. Kelp is also a native plant to Long Island and can act as a habitat for marine life to feed and shelter around.

Kevin Munroe, the Long Island Preserve director at The Nature Conservancy said this fund will help the Shinnecock Kelp Farmers add more staff, equipment and expand their facility. This will allow them to put more kelp lines in Shinnecock Bay which will absorb more nitrogen, sequester more carbon and improve marine life.

“So there is a climate angle, a water quality angle and a biodiversity angle,” Munroe said. “And so working together on that is something we are very excited about in addition to the fact that the Nature Conservancy is very interested in supporting and partnering with Indigenous people around the world.”

The kelp farmers are also working with nonprofit GreenWave, the Sisters of Saint Joseph and researchers at the School of Marine & Atmospheric Sciences at Stony Brook University to grow their farm.

Munroe said The Nature Conservancy is honored to be added to the list of partners supporting their mission.

“Shinnecock Bay is sort of the pebble that creates a ripple that can affect the entire Long Island and New York area as well as both the east and west coast,” he said. “So we really feel their ability to raise awareness and to inspire people and partner and work with others is incredible. ”

The kelp hatchery has already expanded from 18 spools of kelp seed to 48 larger spools, holding over five times the amount of kelp seed. With the funding they hope to continue to expand their farm to eliminate an estimated 4,000 pounds of carbon and 320 pounds of nitrogen from Shinnecock Bay.

The kelp will be harvested each year and turned into an organic eco-friendly soil amendment which can replace harmful chemical fertilizers used by land owners around Shinnecock Bay.

The grant comes from The Nature Conservancy’s New York Common Ground Fund, which supports conservation work that advances equity, justice and land sovereignty across the state.

Maria Lynders is a former news fellow at WSHU.