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Ouzinkie’s Spruce Island Farms want to farm kelp as revenue and to restore the environment

A line of ribbon kelp outside of Craig, Alaska. (Photo by Nick Jones/Seagrove Kelp)
(Nick Jones/Seagrove Kelp)
A line of ribbon kelp outside of Craig, Alaska.

Spruce Island Farms with the City of Ouzinkie is planning to test the feasibility of growing kelp in Narrow Strait, just offshore from the eastern part of Kodiak Island, between the southern end of Spruce Island and Nelson Island. Based on the permit application with the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR), the two entities are looking at farming sugar kelp, dragon kelp, and split kelp.

The first set of aquatic equipment, 470 feet in length, could be deployed within a month, between May and June, about seven feet below the surface. The system would consist of one 100-foot by 10-foot spreader bar system with two 100-foot drop lines, four buoys, and secured by two Danforth-style anchors. The two other arrays would be deployed at the same site between fall 2024 and removed spring 2025, and would consist of a similar system.

Elijah Jackson is the mayor for the City of Ouzinkie and the applicant listed on the DNR permit. He said traditionally, sea greens were used by the Alutiiq people as a staple part of their diet for thousands of years.

“[Kelp] has so many nutrients in it like Vitamins A through K, and so yeah they used it as a food source, just everything,” Jackson said. “It was a natural filter for the ocean as well.”

Kelp farming nowadays could also provide another source of outside funding for Ouzinkie. Jackson said funding for the mariculture test project comes from Kodiak Archipelago Leadership Institute (KALI) along with the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill (EVOS) Trustee Council and other funders.

If things go well with this test project, Jackson said the site will be the future location of a community kelp farm under Spruce Island Farms, one of several farms supporting food-security across the Kodiak Archipelago, collectively called Alutiiq Grown. The kelp will eventually be used as fertilizer for the farms. The other Alutiiq Grown Farms include Marlene’s Garden, Port Lions Farm, Mal’uk Farms and Sitkalidak Sunrise Farm.

“We learned through COVID when the entire world shut down, we were on our own on this island. And it’s like wait, we have a ton of natural resources here, we need to start using it and growing, to keep this island beautiful the way it is,” Jackson explained.

The department’s deadline for public comments on this permit closed earlier this week on May 6. A final decision on the permit is expected within the next week so Spruce Island Farms can test kelp farming as soon as possible.