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Seaweed, a term for marine algae, has been used by Alaskans as a source of food and materials for centuries. Recently, the farming of seaweed has gained attention for its commercial, food security, and climate change mitigation possibilities. Alaska presents an ideal location for the seaweed farming industry, as it has the longest coastline in the United States and more than five hundred species of seaweed. One such species is kelp, a common type of large, brown, seaweed. Some of the largest kelp beds in the world are found in Alaska. Different types of red, green, and black seaweed are also farmed and gathered in Alaska. Seaweed production does not require fertilizer, fresh water, or arable land. Alaska has cold, fertile waters, lively community waterfronts, and a skilled maritime workforce interested in pursuing mariculture (the cultivation of fish and marine life for food). As such, Alaska could be at the cutting edge of the growing seaweed farming industry in the United States.
Seaweed farming is expanding quickly and is expected to continue growing in the coming decades. In Alaska, there has been a marked increase in the number of applications for seaweed farming permits.
How can seaweed help Alaskans adapt to a changing climate?
While seaweed mariculture does not yet have the scale to play a global role in climate change mitigation, there may be potential to locally sequester carbon, depending on the farming practices implemented. Seaweed farming may prove effective in climate change mitigation and adaptation due to the number of benefits associated with farming it.