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The Solution in the Sea: New York Recently Legalized Commercial Kelp Farming. Will It Help Solve the State’s Environmental and Economic Woes?

In 1985, an algae bloom, fueled by nitrogen pollution, transformed the Long Island Sound into a dead zone. Though the area has somewhat recovered, the people and marine life that rely on these waters still feel the impact decades later. Many are hoping that kelp farms can help. Kelp farming is a nature-based mitigation strategy that removes pollutants from ocean water while also providing a commercial crop that can be eaten and used in products ranging from pharmaceuticals to fertilizers. With support from an ocean farming nonprofit called GreenWave, kelp farms have popped up across the country, but it’s only recently that New York has embraced this form of aquaculture. Last December, the New York State Senate passed a bill that legalizes farming certain kelp species during winter months on 110,000 acres of underwater land in Peconic Bay and in Gardiners Bay nearby. The bill has broad support from farmers and environmental groups, but problems with permitting and lack of infrastructure raise questions about how much economic or environmental impact the crop will have statewide.

Iris Crawford
Written by
Iris Crawford

Iris Crawford is an organizer and journalist who covers environmental and climate justice issues. A first generation Guyanese-American and a native New Yorker, Iris has covered solutions happening around the Just Transition, intersections between the Black Lives Matter movement and environmental justice organizations, race, and income inequalities. Her work has appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, Yes! Magazine, Colorlines, and Oakland Voices, among other publications.

Iris’s series for the investigative and explanatory news outlet InvestigateWest explored the decarbonization debates happening throughout the Pacific Northwest and racial inequities entangled therein. The series was syndicated to publications throughout the US, including the Associated Press, US News and World Report, and Grist.

Iris is a 2021-22 CASW Taylor/Blakeslee Fellow. During her time at MIT, she plans to focus on environmental and climate science with a justice lens. If not writing or reading, she is always on the search for the nearest boba shop.

Iris Crawford Written by Iris Crawford