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National Geographic Features Ocean Approved!

How to Farm a Better Fish

National Geographic

A few hundred miles north, in the clear, frigid waters off Casco Bay, two Maine watermen, Paul Dobbins and Tollef Olson, have stepped down the food chain even farther. After watching one commercial-fishery closure after another devastate Maine’s coastal communities, they launched the first commercial kelp farm in the U.S., in 2009. They started with 3,000 linear feet of kelp line and last year farmed 30,000, harvesting three species that can grow up to five inches a day, even in winter. Their company, Ocean Approved, sells kelp as fresh-frozen, highly nutritious salad greens, slaw, and pasta to restaurants, schools, and hospitals along the Maine coast. Delegations from China, Japan, and South Korea have visited the farm—the seaweed industry is a five-billion-dollar business in East Asia.

Let us all eat kelp? “We call kelp the virtuous vegetable,” says Dobbins, “because we are able to create a nutritious food product with no arable land, no fresh water, no fertilizer, and no pesticides. And we’re helping clean the ocean while doing it. We think the ocean would approve.”

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