Legalize Commercial Kelp Farming in our Bays – Let’s Blue-Green Our Economy

 Join us in signing onto this petition to Legalize Kelp Farming in our Bays .

Dear Senators Kaminsky and Stec, Chair and Ranking Member of the Senate Environmental Conservation Committee, and Assemblymen Englebright and Smullen, Chair and Ranking Member of the Assembly Committee on Environmental Conservation,

We write to ask that you support the advancement from Committee of Senate Bill S4028 (A4213 in the Assembly), also known as “The Kelp Bill,” sponsored by Senator Anthony H. Palumbo and Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. 

The bill adds “and seaweed” to an existing statute that allows shellfish farming in the Peconic and Gardiners’ Bays. This would open a valuable economic opportunity for further developing the ‘blue economy’ in this time of recession. Passage of this bill will have immediate benefits for local kelp farmers, who planted a crop for a three-year Stony Brook University feasibility study but are presently unable to harvest and sell their kelp without a legal framework applicable to their industry. 

Exploratory kelp farming projects in the area have already made steady and promising advances. The Stony Brook University study mentioned above was conducted with input from GreenWave, a Connecticut-based organization and international leader in the regenerative ocean farming industry. This study established the potential for seaweed farming to bring a broad spectrum of benefits to the people, the economy and the coastal ecosystems of the East End, while also contributing to climate change mitigation through the absorption of excess carbon. This work lays the foundation for a regenerative industry to emerge around kelp as a new crop in eastern Suffolk County.

Notably, this is a non-partisan issue: the bill received unanimous support from the Department of Environment’s Marine Resources Advisory Council in 2018 – an unusual rallying point for a group that rarely votes 10-0. 

In light of the wide range of benefits that kelp farming will provide, and the bi-partisan support, we urge you to advance The Kelp Bill and to support its passage in the Senate and Assembly. 

Thank you for your leadership and consideration. 

Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson
Founder and CEO, Ocean Collective

Scott Bluedorn
East Hampton Energy Sustainability Committee 

Kate Rossi-Snook
Environmental Advocate, Concerned Citizens of Montauk 

Mary Morgan
Cofounder, Drawdown East End

Diane Shapiro
Ambassador, Drawdown East End

Sean Barrett 
Cofounder, Dock to Dish Montauk 

Jenny Willis 
Climate Activist, Eat More Kelp 

Chef Trevor Swope 
Climate Activist 

Kim Knoll
Concerned Citizen 

Cassia Patel
Cofounder, Oceanic Global 

Lea d’Auriol
Cofounder, Oceanic Global 

Peter Strugatz
Concerned Citizen 

Chef Kerry Heffernan
Grand Banks, Pilot Brooklyn, Island Oyster, Drift In Restaurants, NYC


This Photo licensed under CC BY-SA-NC

If we want to save what’s left, from our pristine waters to our local economy, we have to accelerate our regenerative engagement with Nature. 

We need a new paradigm

We need a new paradigm for doing business while ensuring the maintenance of biodiversity and its values, says the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

What is the blue-green economy

A combination of the green economy, with strategies that focus on energy, transport, agriculture and forestry, and the blue economy, which focuses on fisheries and marine and coastal resources, says the UK Commonwealth Foundation .

Kelp is a Drawdown Solution

Kelp forests are the basis and habitat for vibrant ocean ecosystems. With the potential to grow up to half a meter a day, kelp is also an excellent means of sequestering carbon as it grows, with enormous carbon sequestration potential.

Seaweed, like land plants, use photosynthesis to turn carbon dioxide (CO2) into seaweed biomass (carbon sequestration) and release oxygen. Seaweed grows very fast so it can intake CO2 at a phenomenal rate. The CO2 is locked up in seaweed biomass and the seaweed can be harvested for use, or, it can sink to the seafloor or become stored under the sea floor (similar to soil sequestration). For more, check out this article by a marine ecologist Seaweed is About to Blow Your Climate Mind and her highlight of the Port of San Diego’s Blue Economy Incubator to support emerging aquaculture and blue technology businesses. 

Project Drawdown has assessed a very limited selection of coastal and ocean solutions to date. This solution set will expand in the future (e.g., solutions for regenerative ocean farming and marine ecosystem restoration).

Sugar Kelp is Local

Local sugar kelp (latissima saccharina) is native to our waters, is an extremely beneficial habitat for marine and mitigates against harmful algal blooms. As a commercial product, Sugar kelp is a superfood, a thickening agent, a soil fertilizer, and has biofuel and bioplastic applications.  Growing kelp, i.e. marine permaculture, can help regenerate our waters and provide sustainable local financial and health returns. Let’s grow, use and eat more kelp!

About Mary Foster Morgan

Co-founder, Drawdown East End, a grass roots group inspiring local solutions to drawdown carbon and reverse global warming. Formerly executive director of the Guggenheim Learning Through Art program in New York, Mary moved to the North Fork and helped co-found Slow Food East End. She has deep roots in the East End; for generations her family lived and farmed in East Hampton. Mary currently lives in Orient, writes the Climate Local Now column for the East End Beacon, and takes legislative action on the Climate Action Now app.
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4 Responses to Legalize Commercial Kelp Farming in our Bays – Let’s Blue-Green Our Economy

  1. Robert Wick says:

    Kelp farming consists of stringing lines on or very near the surface of public waterways. Kelp farming, as does surface mounted oyster farming gear, can have the effect of essentially privatizing public water and impeding navigation. When properly regulated, this should be no problem.
    The way most other state bodies that issue leases for aquaculture handle this is to issue a lease for the bottom or a distinct and separate lease for the “water column” for sites they have vetted as to be safe for floating obstructions. The county refuses to do this and by approving seaweed cultivation on “underwater lands”, they are just creating more potential conflict and they are trying to leave the permitting of gear (for seaweed or oysters) to Army Corps of Engineers.
    I would vote to reject the bill until the County agrees to take responsibility for where seaweed is cultivated or gives total control to local towns to approve anything that obstructs navigation.
    Kelp farming is a great idea who’s time hopefully has come here on the East End. Let’s do kelp farming legislation correctly, and then let’s eat more kelp.

    • Mary Foster Morgan says:

      Thank you Robert,

      It’s good to have a discussion like this to educate the public, especially sailors like me and other boaters, about sharing our bays and the many public benefits of kelp (and oyster) farming — namely, kelp is the basis of a vibrant coastal ecosystem and can benefit not only our water’s health, but our health, our economic health, and climate health.

      States all regulate aquaculture differently, as does the US Army Corp of Engineers in federal waters. For the past 35 years New York has required that applicants show rights to the underwater land on which they wish to cultivate shellfish. This applies not only to gear in the bays, but also nursery culture gear deployed off a dock.

      Suffolk County has navigational marking requirements for submerged long lines and floating gear which have recently been revised to address local navigational concerns.

      Local review is happening. In the next 10 years, new leases will be reviewed by local review committees made up of a variety of stakeholders that have knowledge of the local waters. A good article about this was published in the East End Beacon.


    Feeding cows seaweed could cut their methane emissions by 82%, scientists say | Greenhouse gas emissions | The Guardian

  3. Mary Foster Morgan says:

    Thanks David, This is very good news. We at Drawdown East End have heard about these studies from Project Drawdown. I believe the seaweed they are studying is Asparagopsis taxiformis, a red seaweed grown off Australia. I’ve read that tests with dairy cows reduced methane, with no change in milk taste, and also with beef cattle, no difference in beef taste. The challenge also with cattle and climate change are CAFOs – natural grassland grazing actually sequesters carbon, while CAFOs are feeding cows feed grown in Brazil, where tropical forests are being deforested for cow feed. So I say yes to kelp and no to CAFOs!

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