Perspectives on Business and Economics, Vol. 40

Perspectives on Business and Economics, Vol. 40, 2022 54 Introduction Alaska’s kelp industry is young and growing. Since the first kelp farmers started production in 2017, volume has increased almost exponentially each year, and production permit applications continue to rise. There are only 20 seaweed farmers authorized to operate in Alaska, and these farmers produce 0.01% of the world’s seaweed, whereas 97% of seaweed is grown in Asia. Alaska’s output is small, but it is increasing. Alaska has a large potential for expansion due to its long coastline, skilled labor, and existing mariculture infrastructure. According to the McKinley Research Group, Alaska’s mariculture industry, which includes shellfish, fish, and seaweed, has the potential to grow to $100M by 2038, with an annual revenue potential of $15M for kelp (McDowell Group, 2017). Considering Alaska’s output was only around $200,000 in 2020, up from $60,000 in 2019, there is room for substantial progress in the future (Welch, 2021). If Alaska is to reach the goal of $100M in mariculture revenue, kelp production will play an important role. Kelp also offers some key environmental benefits. Increased CO2 in the atmosphere due to human activity has accelerated climate change. This CO2 is then partially absorbed into the oceans. Kelp absorbs CO2 from the water when it grows and thus can be used as a carbon sink. Removing carbon from the atmosphere is important, and kelp farmers have the potential to sell carbon credits for their carbon sequestration efforts. Increased CO2 in the atmosphere also leads to ocean acidification, which can negatively affect ecosystems and harm shellfish in particular, which are a significant Alaskan export. Because kelp removes CO2 from the water, it also mitigates ocean acidification. In addition to absorbing CO2, as it grows, kelp absorbs nitrogen and phosphorus, which are dangerous pollutants that can lead to algal and plant overgrowth as well as ocean dead zones. Ocean acidification and dead zones have been more prevalent in the last few decades due to climate change, and kelp has the ability to lessen the negative effects on the environment. ALASKAN KELP: GROWING A NEW INDUSTRY Helen C. Tynes Alaska has set its sights on growing its mariculture industry to $100M in 20 years. Within this young industry, kelp will play an important role in reaching this goal. Not only would farming kelp bring needed economic activity, but also kelp offers key environmental benefits and can even be used for carbon capture. Further support and programming for farmers are needed as well as new efforts to get kelp on Americans’ plates.