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Do Alaska Kelp Farms Provide Habitat for Native Species?

February 27, 2024

This new video shows the Alaska Fisheries Science Center’s research into how kelp farms may provide habitat for Alaskan species compared to natural bull kelp beds

Alaska Ocean Farms harvests seaweed near Kodiak, Alaska. Alaska Ocean Farms harvests seaweed near Kodiak, Alaska. Credit: NOAA Fisheries

Marine aquaculture, or mariculture, provides economic opportunities for coastal communities in Alaska through the farming of shellfish and seaweed. NOAA Fisheries continues to support Alaska’s growing aquaculture industry through policy and permitting, providing access to capital, and research.

This new video highlights one of our newest aquaculture research collaborations. This research is being conducted by the Alaska Fisheries Science Center’s Kodiak Laboratory and Alaska Ocean Farms, an aquaculture company based in Kodiak. The project is spearheaded by NOAA’s Dr. Alix Laferriere and Alaska Ocean Farms manager Alf Pryor. It’s investigating whether seaweed farms provide habitat for native Alaskan marine species. 

In early 2023, Dr. Laferriere launched a research project that would determine how a seaweed farm might provide habitat and shelter for local fish species. It compared the fish species present within Pryor’s farm to the fish species diversity in natural kelp beds. To do this, she is collecting fish and looking for environmental DNA found in the water. She has deployed a network of underwater cameras in the farmed kelp bed and in a nearby natural kelp bed. She’s tracking the number and species of fish that pass through both environments.

The video dives into the methods that Dr. Laferriere is using to track species diversity. It discusses the importance of the collaboration between the aquaculture industry and researchers to ask industry-driven questions about aquaculture. This is an essential tool for future aquaculture industry development in Alaska.


Last updated by Alaska Regional Office on March 04, 2024