Kelp

Sugar kelp (Saccharina latissima). Mandy Lindeberg/Seaweeds of Alaska

There might be another kelp farm off the coast of Kodiak. Hailey Thompson, Chloe Ivanoff and Clifton Ivanoff filed a proposal with the Department of Natural Resources requesting to lease an area near Holiday Island for the purposes of creating a kelp farm.

The proposal, which was submitted Tuesday, outlined a plan to use almost 14 acres of space — encompassing the surface water to the bottom of the ocean — to grow ribbon kelp and sugar kelp for commercial use. If approved, Kelp Island Alaska may start cultivating kelp and selling it to Kodiak processors, Thompson said.

The kelp industry has been rapidly expanding in the state of Alaska, according to Flip Pryor, the aquaculture section chief of the Division of Commercial Fisheries in the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. Gov. Mike Dunleavy, who strives to create a $100 million kelp industry in Alaska, has been encouraging this growth, Pryor said.

“Alaska has the largest amount of coastline of any other state in the country,” Pryor said. “Kelp farming in particular, but the maritime industry in general, has been growing in demand.”

In addition to this, kelp is completely sustainable and good for the environment, which is appealing to many people, according to Thompson.

Thompson, Chloe and Clifton are new to the kelp industry. The three of them only heard about kelp farming a few years ago. But once it appeared on their radar, they were intrigued by it. Last spring they took a four-day intensive aquatic course that they took through Alaska Sea Grant, Thompson said.

The three of them have been working in the maritime industry for years now, Thompson said. She was fishing with gillnets in Bristol Bay at the age of 12. Chloe and Clifton also grew up as commercial fishermen, she said. However, they have minimal experience in kelp farming. Chloe, Clifton’s sister and Thompson’s soon-to-be sister-in-law, helped seed a local kelp farm and that’s about it, according to Thompson. Thompson is not intimidated, though. They took a very good course, she said.

Besides, they’re not working alone. The kelp community in Kodiak has been very supportive, according to Thompson. Instead of worrying about competition, farmers have been trying to get more people involved in cultivating kelp, she said.

“The more people that it can support, the better it will be for everyone: for the kelp farmers, for the kelp processors and the Kodiak economy in general,” Thompson said. “It’s a growing industry, but you do want more people.”

It’s unusual for a proposal like theirs to not be approved, according to Pryor. The primary reason that proposals get rejected is if they conflict with other legitimate uses of the space, such as commercial or sports fishing, he said. 

Thompson, Chloe and Clifton put a tremendous amount of effort into making sure that this wasn’t a problem, Thompson said. Their proposal was approved by 24 entities, including the Department of Fish and Game, the U.S. Coast Guard, the City of Kodiak and the Kodiak Island Borough.

If their proposal is approved, Kelp Island Alaska will be the seventh kelp farm in Kodiak.

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