First kelp harvested out of the GSP

Thu, 04/25/2019 - 4:45pm

The wind was picking up, so much so that it was moving Catherine Puckett’s small boat around, making it even more difficult to pull up the line that was heavily weighted down with long strands of kelp.

But pull up the line she did, over and over and over, until exhaustion took over. In the end, Puckett and her small crew of Charlie Gale, Jon Grant, and Hunter Barto hauled in about 1,300 pounds of fresh kelp, which will be sold to Ocean Approved, a Maine-based company that sells seaweed products and promotes healthy, green ocean farming. (Its hashtag is #kelptheearth.)

This is the first experimental kelp farm in the Great Salt Pond, and Puckett did it on what she described as a “shoestring.” Lobster pot lines were donated by Grant, and Tony Edwards gave her some old moorings. The seeded lines were provided by the Farmer In Training program run by GreenWave, a group dedicated to creating what it calls the “next generation of ocean farmers.”

Puckett strung the lines in the water in late November last year and started harvesting the results this past week.

The process may have been simple, but it wasn’t easy. Puckett would haul the line, loaded with kelp, out of the water. It was winched up and strung across the small deck of her boat. Puckett trimmed the bottom of the strands, which gets rid of the oldest part of the leaf.

Then Grant would saw away with a knife. Charlie Gale gathered up the cut kelp by the handful and tossed it into a huge Tyvek tote bag.

Kate McConville of the Harbors Department was out on a little skiff watching the occasion and helping out. McConville took two of the full totes to the Hog Pen, where they were going to be lifted out of the boat for pickup by Ocean Approved.

This first season out on the Pond is almost done, and Puckett was asked if there was any downside.

“None. This was a great learning experience,” she said. “So glad I did it.”