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Posts Tagged ‘seaweed’

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Fishers Island is located at the eastern end of Long Island Sound. Long a summer enclave for the wealthy, it may soon become known for a seaweed farm in Fishers Island Sound.

When my three-year-old grandchild was upset because the seaweed snacks were all gone, I knew the world had changed. Seaweed snacks? Yes, indeed. Seaweed has become big in the US. It’s not considered an exotic food anymore.

At the Connecticut newspaper the Day, Joe Wojtas wrote recently about one of the many entrepreneurs moving into seaweed.

“A local man is seeking approval from state and local agencies to run a sugar kelp farm in Fishers Island Sound about one mile southeast of Enders Island.

“Thomas Cooke of LionMind Ventures LLC is seeking a permit from the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to install up to 10 long lines, each 500 feet long and anchored at each end and in the middle. The kelp seeds are embedded in the ropes when they are put out in the water and then harvested six months later after the plants have grown to 12 feet or more. Cooke said the work will begin in late October and end in May, which means it will not occur during the busy recreational boating season in Fishers Island Sound. …

“Cooke, who now lives on Masons Island and is an attorney, director for a professional choral group and the former Simsbury town administrator, … said he learned about kelp farming a few years ago, when he heard a program on the popular TED Talks series about a New Haven-based organization called Greenwave and its executive director, Bren Smith, who farms kelp in the Sound.

“ ‘It’s really good for the Sound,’ Cooke said about kelp farming. ‘It removes nitrogen and carbon dioxide and leaves a much healthier body of water.’ …

“The uses for nutrient-filled kelp include food — growers like to call it sea greens and not seaweed — cosmetics and fertilizers, just to name a few. Cooke said Greenwave works with kelp farmers to provide seed, find buyers and provide technical advice.

Everyone says it’s the new kale but I think it tastes better,’ he said.

More at the Day, here. I blogged about a Rhode Island kelp farmer here.

Photo: NOAA Fisheries
Here’s what sugar kelp looks like. There are different kinds of kelp, but this is the kind mentioned in the story.

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One of the many attractions of Fort Point in Boston is the ever changing array of public art. Here you see a brand new piece on Fort Point Channel: John Hanson’s “Outside the Box,” a Plexiglas sculpture with solar LED lighting.

If you were to walk to the left along the channel toward Gillette, you would see water gushing out of the building into the channel and seaweed on the rocks, a reminder of how close South Boston is to the ocean and the elements. When there is a storm at high tide, the channel can overflow the walkway.

The truck in the parking lot on the other side of the walkway speaks for itself, but who can resist naming some of its contents? “This truck may contain zombies, Navy Seals, teleporters, time machines, waffle cannons, kissing booths, holograms, Himalayas …”

Would I be far off if I said I bet the truck has something to do with the nearby headquarters of the fun-loving Life is good company?

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The radio show Living on Earth (LOE) reported recently on work to restore seaweeds that are a key part of the ecosystem.

From the LOE website: “Ripped from the seafloor by strong swells, massive amounts of kelp recently washed ashore in southern California. But the uprooted algae may actually be a sign of successful kelp restoration efforts. Marine biologist Nancy Caruso discusses the fragile ecosystem and how she and a community are helping to rebuild the majestic kelp forests.”

Radio host Steve Curwood interviewed Caruso. She recounts how she began 12 years ago with a group of students and volunteers “to restore the kelp forests off of Orange County’s coast.”

After a storm, she says, big holes get ripped in the forest of kelp, often 10 feet high. Then “new life can grow from the bottom up, and so if we see this happen, which we’re seeing right now, the kelp returns immediately after this event, then we know that our restoration efforts are successful, and after 30 years of our local ecosystem not having healthy kelp forests, we can rest assured that it’s now restored.”

To Curwood’s question about how restoration is done, Caruso answers, “It was actually quite an effort because I had the help of 5,000 students from ages 11 to 18 as well as 250 skilled volunteer divers, and we planted this kelp in 15 different areas in Orange County. There’s a spot down in Dana Point. It’s the only kelp forest that was left in Orange County so we would collect the reproductive blades from those kelp plants, and I would take them into the classrooms for the students to clean them and we would actually stress them out overnight. We would leave them out of water in the refrigerator, kind covered with paper towels, and then the next morning we would put them back in the ice-cold seawater and the kelp blade would release millions of spores” that would then be raised in nurseries and returned to the ocean.

“All those animals that get washed up on the beach inside the wrangled tangled kelp become a food source for shorebirds that live along our coast.”

More from Living on Earth here. For more on the importance of seaweed, see also Derrick Z. Jackson’s article in the Boston Sunday Globe: “Eelgrass Could Save the Planet.”

Photo: NOAA’s National Ocean Service
Kelp forests can be seen along much of the west coast of North America.

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As usual, John has a pretty good idea of the kind of story that really floats my boat. Mysterious green balls washing up on the beaches of Australia, Anyone?

The Science Alert website reports that on the weekend of September 20, “thousands of peculiar green balls appeared on Dee Why Beach near Sydney in Australia. About 6 centimetres in diameter, these squishy little spheres are living organisms – seaweed balls known as ‘marimo’.

” ‘They’re actually a really unusual growth form of seaweed, because seaweeds mostly grow on the rocks but occasionally they get knocked off and rolled around in the ocean forming these beautiful little balls,’ Alistair Poore from the University of New South Wales explained to 7News.’It’s quite an unusual phenomenon, it’s only been seen a handful of times around the world.’

“First discovered in the 1820s by Austrian botanist Anton Eleutherius Sauter, and named by Japanese botanist Tatsuhiko Kawakami in 1898 (‘marimo’ roughly means ‘bouncy play ball’ in Japanese), colonies of these little balls have only been seen off the coast of Iceland, Scotland, Japan, Estonia and now Australia.”

See videos at Science Alert, here.

More on the green balls at Wikipedia and at Smithsonian.

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Someone has finally recognized seaweed for the artistic creation it is.

That someone is Josie Iselin, whose book An Ocean Garden: The Secret Life of Seaweed was reviewed by Dana Jennings in the NY Times Science section Tuesday.

Jennings begins, “The secret to finding unsuspected beauty, artists and naturalists will tell you, is in knowing how to slow down and really look. The writer and photographer Josie Iselin certainly knows how to do that, as she shows in her beguiling new book, An Ocean Garden.

“In her introduction Ms. Iselin … writes, ‘I fell in love with seaweed at the kitchen counter.’ (She would bring back samples and study them there.) And it vexes her that others don’t share in her tidal pool crush. …

“The 100 color photographs here, though, just might convince some people …  The book focuses on seaweeds found in Maine and California, both states she has lived in; the species names tickle the tongue in the same way that the seaweeds themselves can tingle bare feet: knotweed and bladderwrack, bull kelp and green scrap, pepper dulse and sugar kelp, Turkish towel and Irish moss.” Read more about the book, here.

We’re headed to the beach this weekend with John and his little ones. Maybe we will be able to identify some seaweeds there.

Photos: Josie Iselin
Clockwise from top left, seaweeds from Josie Iselin’s new book: Macrocystis, Ulva lobata, Calliarthron tuberculosum, Egregia menziesii, Gloiosiphonia verticillaris and coralline algae.

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I like win-win stories like this one from National Public Radio. It’s about a new crop with a lot of monetary potential — and distinct advantages for the environment.

“It doesn’t require any land or fertilizer. Farming it improves the environment, and it can be used in a number of ways. So what is this miracle cash crop of the future? It’s seaweed.

“Charlie Yarish, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Connecticut, loves seaweed. In nature, he says, when seaweed turns a rich chocolate color, that means the plant is picking up nitrogen, a process called nutrient bioextraction. …

“Many plants and animals cannot survive when there is too much nitrogen in the water, but seaweed is able to ‘capture’ the nitrogen, as well as contaminants in the water.

“A United Nations report says that nearly 16 million tons of seaweed were farmed in 2008 — most of it in Asia. Yarish helped a company called Ocean Approved start the United States’ first open-water kelp farm in the Gulf of Maine in 2006 … Now, he’s helping to create a seaweed farm off the coast of Connecticut.

“Bren Smith owns and runs the Thimble Island Oyster Company, off the coast of Branford, Conn. After his business was hit hard by Tropical Storm Irene last year, ruining about 80 percent of the shellfish crop, Smith started looking around for something more resilient to farm. That’s when he found Yarish, who agreed to help set him up in the seaweed farming business. …

” ‘There’s no barns, there’s no tractors. This is what’s so special about ocean farming. It’s that it’s got a small footprint and it’s under the water. I mean, we’re so lucky; I feel like I stumbled on this just great secret that we then can model and spread out to other places,’ ” Smith says. …

” ‘The plan is to actually split it into a couple different experimental markets — one for food, one for fertilizer, one for fish food. I’m [also] working with a skin care company in Connecticut, and then one for biofuel,’ Smith says. He’s even hoping he can someday fuel his own boat with biofuel from the seaweed.”

Craig LeMoult has the whole story here at NPR, where you also can listen to the audio.

Photograph by Ron Gautreau
Oyster fisherman Bren Smith on his boat.

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John leads the way for the end-of-summer clambake, rallying Suzanne and Erik to go with him first to collect driftwood, then to swim out to where there is good seaweed on the rocks.

It’s an all-day project ultimately involving six adults and one toddler.

Rocks get placed in a pit, wood gets burned on top, wood coals get shoveled out, lobsters, seaweed, potatoes, corn, clams, mussels in cheesecloth, seawater, and more seaweed get dumped on the very hot rocks, a tarpaulin covers everything and is sealed with more rocks so the steam stays in.

After a couple hours, newspaper gets spread for  a tablecloth, the neighbors arrive, and the tarp is whipped off.

In the kitchen, Meran has made a salad with her garden’s tomatoes, plus spaghetti with fresh clam sauce. Sandra has brought an assortment of her famed homemade cookies. Patrick has brought extra utensils for cracking open lobster claws.

If you want to learn more, do what John does. He searches the Internet on “how to do a clambake” and reads several websites.

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