Maine has long been known for our breathtaking coastlines and forests, our lobsters, our blueberries and, more recently, our ridiculously good beer. But Maine is now getting national and global attention for something that you might not expect: seaweed aquaculture. Maine’s wild harvest seaweed industry has long been supplying the world with sustainable seaweed from the clean, cold waters of Maine. In the last four years, however, Maine’s fishermen have steadily and quietly become the U.S. leaders in seaweed aquaculture.

Justin Papkee, a partner farmer with Atlantic Sea Farms, hauls up kelp lines with the help of his crew, Jim Ranaghan and Chris Papkee, off Long Island in 2021. Maine’s working waterfront communities grew more than 85 percent of the cultivated seaweed in the entire U.S. in 2021. Photo by Nicole Wolf

To put a finer point on it: Maine’s working waterfront communities grew more than 85 percent of the cultivated seaweed in the entire U.S. in 2021.

Seaweed farming is positive and additive and is done with no inputs, no arable land and no fresh water; it helps improve the ocean by removing carbon and nitrogen from the water column. It is the most climate-friendly food on the planet and is rich with nutrients and minerals. In Maine, it’s helping working waterfront communities not only mitigate some of the effects of climate change, but also adapt to a changing ocean as wild fisheries become increasingly volatile.

And here’s the best part: Maine is in the position to continue to be the leader in the production of this superfood, all the while making our coastal communities and oceans more resilient. We have more coastline than the state of California; more than 4,000 lobster license holders who can farm kelp in their off-season, and a deep desire to ensure that our fishing communities are able to continue to work on the water for generations to come.

Maine’s fishermen and aquaculturists already have the necessary infrastructure, skills and strong ethos of innovation, quality and stewardship that makes them outstanding kelp farmers. And with 98 percent of the seaweed eaten in the U.S. coming from untraceable sources overseas, the domestic market is ready for more Maine products. We are just scratching the surface of the positive impact that seaweed farms can have on our food systems, ocean and coastal communities.

The world is taking notice that something different, positive and exciting is happening here – and that this sea change is being owned by Mainers.


This week, Maine welcomes the Seagriculture Conference, the leading global seaweed industry conference. People are coming to Maine because they want to learn from Mainers about how to build a sustainable aquaculture industry in their own states and countries – and because they want to buy regenerative seaweed from Maine.

We are excited to welcome the conference to our state and show that economic development and climate change adaptation can be most effective when people are empowered to make their own future. Just look at Maine’s fishermen and mussel farmers who have quietly gotten to work, innovated and turned Maine into a national leader in aquaculture when everyone else was focused on large offshore farms and robotic equipment.

To continue expanding the opportunities for Maine’s fishing communities to grow kelp and improve the oceans, we’re going to need Mainers’ help.

We cannot be beholden to wealthy oceanfront property owners who would rather gentrify our coast than see communities continue to work on the water. We need to give our regulators at the Department of Marine Resources the resources to move our industry forward by processing strong and compliant aquaculture lease applications in a reasonable timeframe. We need to continue to show the world that truly sustainable food doesn’t come from a lab, it comes from the clean cold waters of Maine and is grown by fishermen.

Let’s prove to the world that we can grow food better here – food that is good for the planet, the consumer and our fishing communities.

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