Shinnecock Kelp Farmers, the first Indigenous-owned and operated kelp farm on the East Coast, is expanding with the help of a $75,000 grant from The Nature Conservancy.
A women-led nonprofit, the Shinnecock Kelp Farmers are expanding its kelp hatchery and farm in Southampton so that kelp can be grown to restore water quality and marine habitats. The farmers plan to sustainably harvest kelp to provide an environmentally friendly alternative to conventional fertilizer.
Studies by The Nature Conservancy and partners found that nitrogen pollution from septic systems and fertilizer runoff was causing a decline in water quality and biodiversity, according to a Nature Conservancy statement. In response, the Shinnecock Kelp Farmers began work on their kelp farm hatchery in 2020 to revive Shinnecock Bay.
By developing a “seed-to-sale” business model, the kelp farmers also hope to create and sustain green jobs that empower the Shinnecock Tribal community, help restore marine habitat and improve water quality in Shinnecock Bay and beyond, according to the statement.
Within the first season, scallops, clams, sea horses and other species that have experienced precipitous declines in Shinnecock Bay were seen exploring and sheltering in their kelp lines. The kelp farmers are currently working with GreenWave, the Sisters of Saint Joseph and researchers at the School of Marine & Atmospheric Sciences at Stony Brook University to study how to transport and filter water from the bay to support and scale the hatchery’s work in a sustainable way.
“For years, it was projected that by 2050, our reservation would be underwater due to climate change induced sea-level rise. That timeline has since moved up to 2040. Urgent problems exist and they can no longer be ignored,” Tela Troge, director of the Shinnecock Kelp Farmers, said in the statement. “When we combine traditional ecological knowledge with cutting-edge science, we see leaps and bounds in what we can do. We are grateful for this support and partnership with The Nature Conservancy, and it is a promising start for what needs to be done considering the time that we have to do it.”
Bill Ulfelder, executive director of The Nature Conservancy in New York, said his group is honored to support the effort.
“It’s important to acknowledge and address past injustices inflicted on Indigenous Peoples,” Ulfelder said in the statement. “When we support and promote Indigenous-led conservation efforts like the Shinnecock Kelp Farmers we help reduce pollution, improve water quality and promote the health and resilience of all nature, humanity included.”
Support for the Shinnecock Kelp Farmers is provided through The Nature Conservancy in New York’s Common Ground Fund, which was established to catalyze and enable new and existing conservation work in New York that advances equity, justice, and land sovereignty.