Have you ever wondered what the secret ingredient was that made your teeth shine? That made your hair glisten? That made your skin youthful and healthy? (Yes, it's kelp!)
Kelp is used in our toothpastes, cosmetics, medicines, salads, glass production, ice cream, jellies, and can yield resources such as methane and ethanol.
For these products, kelp is harvested in its natural habitat in order to be distributed. There are an incredible amount of benefits to the processes in sustainable mariculture. Kelp produces oxygen for us (over 50% of our world's oxygen comes from the OCEAN) through photosynthesis, and absorbs chemicals such as nitrogen, phosphorous and carbon dioxide which are too plentiful in our coastal system. It provides habitats for fishes and mollusks while protecting coastlines from erosion.
In order to harvest kelp in a sustainable fashion, one must follow guidelines regarding the placement of the open-water farm and everything from that point onward. Some of the conditions to finding a good farm location include: current strength, nutrient amount, protection from storms, limited use from commercial fisheries that could overuse the resources, specific depths, not in habitats that would endanger species, and far enough from state-owned piers or structures.
A key factor in farming sustainably is not including pesticides, antibiotics and pollutants to this process, or else there could be more harm than good. The whole point of kelp mariculture is to provide local products that are useful and renewable while still restoring the ocean instead of taking away from it.
Ama Sea Beauty, a Santa Barbara local cosmetics store and "Pharmersea" that farms sustainable seaweed, is a perfect example of what we should be striving toward. Inspired by Bren Smith and Green Wave, Ama Sea has produced a 25-acre ocean farm off the California coast with all green, clean, sustainable, and local aspects. With this farm, they are able to provide the public with healthy kelp-based products while remaining on the Ocean's side.
In Antoinette Marquez's novel The Longevity Revolution: Thalasso Therapy, she explains the history behind using the sea as a health resource and how we apply this to kelp mariculture. She gives sustainability advice, such as to only gather seaweed at the lowest tide and only the pieces that are already detached as to not disrupt the life cycle. In California, we are able to harvest up to 17 pounds a day without a license. This kelp can be used in baths, foods, and skin routines to improve aging and overall health. Once the kelp is collected, it must be dried (3-5 hours). The kelp used for food should be at least 10 meters from the shore when found. Depriving the kelp of oxygen forces it to let go of its gooey internal material that works all of the magic. Other forms of thalasso therapy include beach walks, swims, and floating. It's simple yet effective. Check out the book linked above for more detailed information!
The goal of these ocean farms is to restore ecosystems in the face of climate change that have devastated kelp forests while producing products and jobs, and relying on a blue-green economy rather than one that focuses on fossil fuels. This kind of innovative thinking is what leads our society to clean energy, clean fertilizers, healthier products, restorative methods, and supporting local economies. In order to make a difference in the health of the ocean, we have to adjust our thought processes in such a way that allows us to move forward in both our economy and the conservation of the environment rather than one or the other.