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Sugar Kelp Cultivation Could Be A Win-Win For Long Island Waters

NOAA Fisheries

Oyster farmers on Long Island may want to consider adding a new crop to their repertoire – sugar kelp. That’s according to scientists at Stony Brook University.

Sugar kelp is seaweed – that soggy stuff you see washed up on the beach in the spring. It’s farmed throughout the region, including in Connecticut.

Chris Gobler is part of a team of researchers at Stony Brook that experimented with growing kelp on Long Island oyster farms.

“All of these farms are only growing oysters and nothing else. Centuries of experience has pointed to, if you grow only one crop, you’re leaving yourself vulnerable to crop failure.”

Kelp grows vertically so Gobler says it won’t take up a lot of space. And it’s good for the environment.

“Seaweeds are like sponges for nutrients. As they grow, they’re removing nitrogen and phosphorus from the waters. And on Long Island, we have an overabundance of nitrogen in our waters that’s causing environmental problems.”

Nitrogen that leaks into water bodies has been linked to toxic algal blooms that kill marine life. It’s caused big fish die-offs on Long Island.

Next, Gobler and his team will work with local chefs to put sugar kelp on Long Island’s restaurant tables. The sweet-tasting seaweed is especially delicious on sushi.