University of Connecticut University of UC Title Fallback Connecticut

Posts Tagged ‘Connecticut Sea Grant’

Connecticut’s New Marine Crop

By: Anoushka Concepcion, Connecticut Sea Grant and UConn Extension

kelp

Photo credit: Nancy Balcom

Connecticut has an extensive agricultural industry that extends far beyond land. Hidden under its coast, lies more than 70,000 acres where one of the best protein sources is produced – shellfish (clams, oysters, mussels, and scallops). The shellfish aquaculture industry is over 150 years old and expanding in numbers of producers, and additional products. But shellfish are not the only crops that grow underwater. Seaweed, or sea vegetables, is a highly valued commodity at $8-10 billion in the global market. Seaweeds are consumed for their nutritional benefits and are a staple in Asian diets. Their components are in a wide range of products including fertilizers, animal feeds, nutritional supplements, cosmetics, and biofuels. Seaweeds also provide ecosystem services; they can be used to clean up waterways by extracting excess nutrients from urban runoff.

Although the majority of production occurs in Asia, interest in seaweed production is increasing in the United States. For many years, seaweed has been harvested from the wild. However, the cultivation (or aquaculture) of domestic seaweed is increasing. Current producers of seaweed include shellfish producers and displaced lobstermen looking to diversify products and income. There is also an interest from municipalities who are looking at seaweed for ecosystem services. Currently in Connecticut, there are two types of seaweed cultivated and approved for food: the sugar kelp, Saccharina latissima and Gracilaria tikvahiae. The kelp grows in the winter season while the Gracilaria grows in the summer. There are four commercial farms growing sugar kelp. These farms are small-scale and mostly grow shellfish.

Connecticut Sea Grant has been involved in seaweed aquaculture for almost 30 years, funding extensive foundational and applied research of Dr. Charles Yarish in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. More recently, Sea Grant and UConn Extension have been helping transfer aspects of the research to industry and market, along with Yarish and other collaborators. Sea Grant has been addressing several bottlenecks hindering further expansion of this new industry. The major bottleneck is lack of federal guidelines on the public health aspect of domestic seaweed production and processing. Since the majority of seaweed domestically produced is from wild-harvest, it has been unregulated. There are guidelines ensuring seafood, meat, dairy, and other agricultural commodities are safe for human consumption. However, we don’t have similar guidelines for cultivated seaweed. This presents a problem for state regulatory agencies that are trying to ensure the seaweed grown in Connecticut is safe. Sea Grant and UConn Extension partnered with the Connecticut Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Aquaculture to develop guidelines that allow locally produced seaweed to be grown and sold in the state. This guide contains handling, storage, and processing guidelines for both species of seaweed grown in Connecticut.

Seaweed can grow quickly and in large volumes, requiring harvesting be done all at once. Since seaweed has a short shelf life – it starts to degrade within hours, it must be used right away or processed into a form that will last. Local chefs desire raw kelp since it is fresh and unprocessed, but it has a very short shelf life. Kelp has also been processed into noodles and sold to a limited number of restaurants and retailers in the region. In 2013, Sea Grant assisted the Bureau of Aquaculture in approving the first commercial seaweed grower to sell fresh kelp and kelp noodles as food. This involved providing development funds testing the safety of both forms of kelp and seafood safety knowledge to determine appropriate handling, storage, and processing guidelines. The seaweed grower has now expanded to a large-scale commercial kelp processing facility in New Haven, Sea Greens Farms; that can accommodate seaweed produced by other growers in the region. Although guidelines have been developed for raw and kelp noodles, they have not been developed for dehydrated or dried seaweed. Sea Grant is working with a local food manufacturer to conduct drying experiments to determine if there are any potential hazards associated with dehydrating seaweed. Although experiments are ongoing, preliminary results indicate that as long as the seaweed is stored and handled properly, it should be safe to eat.

Additional experiments are being conducted to determine if the summer seaweed, Gracilaria, is suitable for human consumption when cultivated in Connecticut’s coastal waterways. Gracilaria can remove heavy metals and other chemicals from the water, making it a great candidate for nutrient bioextraction to clean up waterways. However, there is no data showing that it is safe for human consumption.   Currently, only Gracilaria cultivated in indoor tanks can be sold as food, since growing conditions can be controlled ensuring product safety. Experiments analyzing Gracilaria grown in Connecticut waters are underway to determine its feasibility as a food product. Additional barriers under investigation include expanding markets for local product and the successful transition of kelp seed-string production from research labs to commercial-scale. Although the production of seed-string has begun to shift into the hands of commercial seaweed operations, it is not fully independent and at the same level as the shellfish aquaculture industry. An extensive seafood marketing survey this summer will assess awareness and consumption of Connecticut seafood and seaweed among residents.

Although the potential for seaweed aquaculture in Connecticut is huge, there are constraints to rapid expansion. The domestic seaweed aquaculture industry is still in its infancy and it is yet to be determined if it will become more than a niche commodity. Overcoming these constraints will take time, as with any new product. However, this new crop may contribute to sustaining and creating new jobs as well as providing additional ecosystem services for Connecticut’s coastline.

Legal Issues and Climate Adaptation

fact sheets
A number of questions were raised at Legal Issues in the Age of Climate Adaptation, a conference held by UConn CLEAR’s and Connecticut Sea Grant’s Climate Adaptation Academy in late 2015. The Marine Affairs Institute & RI Sea Grant Legal Program at Roger Williams University School of Law reviewed the questions, which came from the audience during the course of the conference. The Legal Program then developed four fact sheets addressing the following topics: Takings and Coastal Management; Property and Permitting Boundaries at the Shoreline; Government Tort Liability for Disclosure of Flood Hazard Information; Flood and Erosion Control Structures. The fact sheets can be found at: http://climate.uconn.edu/
Also a UConn Clear Webinar with regard to the fact sheets will be held on May 2:  http://clear.uconn.edu/webinars/CLEARseries17/index.htm

Farm to Food Tour

shellfish

Photo: Tessa Getchis

This year’s Hartford County-UConn Extension, Farm to Food Tour is going to sea!  Extension’s partnership with Connecticut Sea Grant has opened the door to the mysteries of aquaculture and the “farmers” who produce Connecticut’s shellfish and other ocean grown products.

A luxury coach will take us from our starting (and ending) point in Glastonbury to visit notable seafood producers on Connecticut’s shoreline. UConn Extension’s partnership with Connecticut Sea Grant has opened the door to the mysteries of aquaculture and the farmers who produce Connecticut’s shellfish ad other ocean grown products. Following a visit to a New Haven based kelp farmer, the UConn Avery Point campus will welcome us to their historic Branford House mansion. There we will enjoy a delicious seafood luncheon. But save room because afterwards we’ll be treated to a raw bar with oysters that are fresh out of the ocean. This experience will be hosted by a working shellfish cooperative in Noank, CT where we’ll learn about harvesting shellfish from the people who do it. After that we’ll travel to Bluff Point State Park to see a demonstration of clam digging, and we’ll be encouraged to roll up our pant legs and dig some ourselves.

Send in your registration form right away–the bus fills up quickly. Registration deadline is August 31st. Questions can be directed to Martha at marthadan01@gmail.com.

More details and registration are available at this website. Contact your friends and mark your calendars.  This tour is sure to be very popular!  Make plans to join us and learn how UConn Extension supports and celebrates Connecticut’s aquaculture and shellfish industry.

Survival Training for Commercial Fishermen

entering life raft

Fishermen practice climbing into the life raft from the water in their immersion suits. The strongest person enters first, to help the rest of the crew into the raft. Photo: Nancy Balcom.

immersion suits

Trainer Ed Dennehy from Fishing Partnership Support Services watches as fishermen practice entering the water in their immersion suits properly. Photo: Nancy Balcom.

fire suppression

A fisherman practices fire suppression with a crew member providing backup.; Trainer Jake Cabral from Fishing Partnership Support Services looks on. Photo: Nancy Balcom.

chain swim

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nancy Balcom, Associate Director and Program Leader, Connecticut Sea Grant, and Senior Extension Educator, UConn Extension, organized and facilitated safety and survival training for 49 commercial fishermen. The training was sponsored by Connecticut Sea Grant, US Coast Guard, University of Connecticut and the Alaska Marine Safety Education Association on May 4, 2016 at the University of Connecticut – Avery Point. Drill instructor certification for 24 fishermen was conducted on May 5, 2016. Training was provided by Fishing Partnership Support Services (MA) and by Coast Guard F/V Examiners from New Haven CT and Coram (Long Island) NY.

Guidance for Recreational Shellfish Harvest

shellfish infographic

Are you a recreational shellfish harvester? Check out the 2016 guide from Connecticut Sea Grant.

NOAA and Sea Grant Announce Projects for $1.4M Coastal Storm Awareness Program

seagrantannivSILVER SPRING, MD, JANUARY 16, 2014 – Connecticut Sea Grant, New Jersey Sea Grant, and New York Sea Grant have awarded funds totaling $1.4 million to support ten social science research projects to improve community understanding and response to coastal storm hazard information as part of NOAA Sea Grant’s Coastal Storm Awareness Program.
Despite the unparalleled accuracy of the forecast for Post Tropical Cyclone Sandy, too many coastal residents either failed to fully understand the severity of the storm and the dangerous conditions it would produce, or chose not to evacuate in spite of the serious risks of staying in their homes. The awarded projects will study community response to disasters by closely examining the coastal storm warning systems, the information conveyed (what to expect, when to expect it, and what do) and the factors that affect whether recipients of this information decide to act on it. The results of this research will improve the communication of coastal hazards to both the general community and to community leaders.
This national competition drew on the decades of experience within NOAA and Sea Grant as well as the well-earned reputation for credibility and trust of the Sea Grant outreach communities in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. By combining Sea Grant’s established relationship within local communities with current social science research, this effort will be able to maximize awareness and understanding of the true severity of coastal hazards – even amongst hard to reach, isolated groups within communities.
Sea Grant’s CSAP is a part of the Disaster Relief Appropriations of 2013 (DRA), commonly referred to as the Sandy Supplemental.  DRA provided supplemental appropriations to the NOAA to improve and streamline disaster assistance associated with Post-Tropical Cyclone Sandy, and for other purposes.  In addition to recovering and rebuilding infrastructure from the devastation of Sandy, NOAA will conduct a coordinated program of activities to improve NOAA information and services for decision makers, communities, and the public in preparation for, response to, and recovery from other high-impact events. The results of these efforts will contribute to NOAA’s vision of resilient ecosystems, communities, and economies.
There is also a website describing the program in detail:http://www.nyseagrant.org/csap