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Posted on: December 8, 2021

Conservation Staff Grow Sugar Kelp in Hempstead Bay to Improve Water Quality

Sugar Kelp Gameteophytes under microscope

The cultivation of sugar kelp can be beneficial to the marine environment.  This species of macroalgae is very effective at absorbing excess nutrients that degrade water quality, a natural process often referred to as bioextraction.  The Town of Hempstead's aquaculture staff have been participating in the Lazy Point Farm Sugar Kelp Initiative working alongside a committed group of marine scientists, food scientists, regulators, and non-commercial growers.  This group formed by the not-for-profit Moore Foundation includes the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County, municipal shellfish hatcheries in the Towns of Islip and East Hampton, the private Hatchery Hart Lobster, as well as over a dozen shellfish growers throughout Long Island.  

As part of this regional program, to support the development of sugar kelp aquaculture, the Town of Hempstead has been culturing starter spools of kelp spores in its newly expanded shellfish hatchery.  The spools being produced within the Town's aquaculture facility are being utilized by non-commercial growers and researchers interested in establishing a thriving sugar kelp industry in New York State's waters.  Locally, right here in Hempstead Bay, The Garden Club of Lawrence, the Long Beach School District, and the Town of Hempstead's Department of Conservation and Waterways have volunteered their time and facilities to grow lines of kelp that will eventually to be harvested and utilized in terrestrial gardening projects.  This week, the Town of Hempstead has completed the installation of over 600 feet of kelp field grow-out lines within these three local sites.  An additional 2,400 feet of kelp spools were supplied by the Town to growers and researchers across Long Island.   Kelp growing in these locations will remove nitrogen from the water column while it grows between December and May.  Once harvested and removed from the marine environment, the nitrogen rich tissues can be used as soil amendments, reducing the need for fertilizers.

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