Nova Scotia paves the way for kelp farming, an untapped market that could be worth millions IG News

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Nova Scotia will allow shellfish farmers to add kelp to aquaculture leases over the next three to five years, starting an industry that could be worth about $40 million, according to an economic analysis released this week.

So far, the cultivation of flowing yellow-orange seaweed has only been approved as a pilot project in the province. Michel Samson, director of aquaculture with Premium Seafoods in Cape Breton, was among the first.

“Last year, we had a ton of kelp. It was awesome,” Samson told CBC News.

Like other seaweeds, kelp can be processed – often dried and crushed – and used as an additive to food, health and beauty products. But the cultivation of kelp is still in its early stages.

“Last year, we outperformed other sites in Nova Scotia. But why? We don’t really know that yet,” Samson said. “It will be really interesting to see once we get farmers in Nova Scotia cultivating kelp.”

The Ecology Action Center, an environmental group based in Halifax, released an economic analysis on the potential impact of New Zealand capturing about 10 percent of the current North American market in Nova Scotia.

‘It’s really good business’

This could translate to $38 million for farmed and processed kelp over the next three to five years, said Arlin Wasserman, co-author of the analysis and founder and managing director of the Changing Tastes consultancy.

“It’s really good business,” Wasserman told CBC News.

Wasserman presented his findings this week at an event sponsored by the Ecology Action Center in Lunenburg, N.S. He said the province is “extraordinarily well positioned” to capture a significant share of the $200 million regional market in Canada and the United States.

Marine wood hanging from a line on a boat.
Until recently, cultivation of the flowing yellow-orange seaweed was approved only as a pilot project in Nova Scotia. (Premium Seafood)

“Because of the natural resources, how close we are to population centers, a history and an infrastructure for the seafood industry,” Wasserman told a crowd of provincial officials, aquaculture operators and environmentalists.

Wasserman urged the province to act fast to take advantage of demand from the North American market, which the report estimates could reach 53 million kilograms annually in just two years.

The report says Nova Scotia should aim for about 1,080 hectares of farmed ocean, which it estimates could produce 5.4 million kilograms of kelp within three to five years.

What should happen to the kick-start industry

The report states that an additional $20 million in local economic activity is possible from the purchase of goods and services, increased tourism, and the creation of new jobs and wages. It is estimated that another $111 million could be added in the manufacturing of processed products.

But all this is far from today.

Charlene LeBlanc runs LeBlanc Seeded Lines, a land-based kelp seedling business in Lower West Pubnico.

A kelp harvester hauls a row of seaweed to a boat.
The premium seafood was part of a kelp-farming pilot project in Cape Breton. (Premium Seafood)

LeBlanc said more lease approvals are needed to keep the industry moving forward.

“I hear a lot of frustration that people are waiting and waiting and they keep getting promises of adding leases, especially those who have shellfish leases,” she said. “And they’re still waiting.”

Shannon Arnold, associate director of marine programs at the Ecology Action Center, is also involved in a pilot project in Mahone Bay outside Halifax.

Expediting Approvals

Arnold said it’s time to expedite approvals.

“Right now, it’s taking a few years to get those permits to get people on the water. The government is committed to getting the regulations right shape for marine plants and shellfish farming,” Arnold said.

“We want to work with them to make this happen so that Nova Scotia doesn’t fall behind our neighboring jurisdictions that are so eager for kelp.”

A man dressed in white is standing in front of a tandoor holding a plate.
Chef Martin Ruiz Salvador of Beach Pea Kitchen in Lunenburg, NS, presents a dish from the kelp-based menu. It’s a kelp-braised beef shank with grilled leeks and leek cream, with dehydrated kelp chips and kelp oil. (Paul Withers/CBC)

This week, the Nova Scotia Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture notified the aquaculture industry that it will allow amendments to existing shellfish licenses to add kelp as a species.

Susan Corkum-Greeke, Nova Scotia’s minister of economic development, said the province would need to work with federal departments to develop the kelp business. She said her department has “voiced some very strong concerns” about the “tie-up” in Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

“We don’t want to be ready to go and there are still hurdles,” Corkum-Greece said.

A woman wearing glasses and a black shirt is standing in front of the red house.
Michelle Samson is the Director of Aquaculture with Premium Seafoods in Cape Breton. (CBC)

Samson said kelp is new to the government and to growers, but he’s been at it for three years.

Kelp, his company’s main aquaculture business, is a perfect fit for farming sea scallops, which have busy seasons in spring and fall, he said. Kelp is a winter crop harvested in May.

“It’s a great opportunity for shellfish producers and for Nova Scotia to really have people year round, which is really great,” she said.

Optimism for kelp

Samson said he is optimistic about the prospects.

“We finally have some hatcheries that are producing. We have some leases that are able to put kelp on their lease and see how it grows – which is great. So I think it’s really Nova It will be a test year for kelp in Scotia.”

Information Morning – Cape Breton6:24Cultivation of kelp in Arichat

Premium Seafoods in Arichat is experimenting with growing kelp.