Welcome to PBCB's Kelp Lab!
Pleasant Bay Stewards invites community scientists to learn about the importance of kelp. Enjoy a behind-the-scenes peek into the Kelp Lab, headed by PBCB resident scientist, Jamie Nye. Jamie spoke with AmeriCorps Cape Cod Member, Lily Gooding, about what's new with kelp, as it becomes a more popular commodity in aquaculture for innovative cuisine. The one-on-one interview below introduces PBCB's very own kelp nursery so that community members can stay informed and up to date on all things kelp at Pleasant Bay.
What are the benefits of growing kelp?
The benefits of kelp are mostly that is a winter crop which makes it preferable to grow on Cape Cod because boat traffic will be less in the winter and it won't get in anyone's way.
Kelp is great, too, because it isn't like a garden; it doesn't require as many inputs. You don't have to add soil and water and fertilizer like you would in a garden. Once it is put in the ocean, it will thrive just off the nutrient-rich waters of Pleasant Bay.
There's some evidence that kelp can mitigate ocean acidification by taking in carbon dioxide and nitrogen in our waters and producing oxygen. But, that would probably happen on a very small scale. It's good for the environment, but mostly it is a kind of local remediation. It's a good way for us to help right here, where we are. It's a good way to get in touch with the community and help the place where you live, work, fish, etc.
Once harvested, what can the kelp be used for?
Once kelp is taken out of the water, it can be used for all kinds of things. You can cook with it, make fish feed out of it, maybe use it to make biofuel or a natural fertilizer. When it's removed from the water, the kelp will be very nutrient dense so it would be perfect as a natural fertilizer alternative to some of the harsh chemical fertilizers that can pollute our water systems on Cape Cod. Since it comes from right here, too, you really wouldn't be adding anything extra to the ecosystem that wouldn't already be there.
What is the harvesting process like?
Pleasant Bay Community Boating is lucky to partner with Chatham Kelp farmers to transfer the lab-grown kelp to the sea once it is ready. It's a very simple process because the kelp will hang from a horizontal line, anchored on both ends. Since it will have been growing in the water for a few months, absorbing nutrients from Pleasant Bay, it's important that we remove it so that we can actually provide some kind of benefit to the water quality. The horizontal lines make the process of pulling up the kelp very easy.
How does stewardship fit in with the kelp project?
One of the biggest ways this project encourages stewardship is through our partnership with Chatham Kelp to help them start their first kelp nursery by providing them with spools locally grown instead of ordering from other companies.
It goes back to the idea of local, low-impact bio remediation - helping how we can, where we are and encouraging others to do the same. The scope of this project is to hopefully show the potential for kelp farming in places where we didn't think kelp could be farmed. Cape Cod has a lot of nutrient rich estuaries that could benefit from the filtering that kelp provides. Changes are hard to accept, especially in small communities like this. By learning about both the fiscal and environmental benefits kelp can have when farmed in this low-maintenance system, we can encourage others to tackle similar initiatives.