Supporting sustainable blue food isn’t only about fish and shellfish. Seaweed also plays an important role as part of multi-trophic systems. Under this practice, multiple organisms are farmed together to improve efficiency, reduce waste and provide ecosystem benefits. Lower-level species like seaweed derive nutrients from the waste products of higher species, so no additional inputs are needed.
“We might be farming a finfish, but alongside of it, we’re also farming bivalves like the oysters and mussels, and seaweed,” Bushman explained. Including seaweed in such systems can be enormously beneficial, she added, because it lowers the water’s nitrogen and acidification levels, absorbs carbon, and assists in regenerating fish populations.
As with grapes, there are many different varieties of seaweed, each with its own flavor and combination of nutrients. Bushman has seen chefs use seaweed in stunningly creative ways, from topping grilled mussels with sea lettuce sauce to adorning cheesecake with caramelized sea grapes.
Beyond the kitchen and dining room, sustainable aquaculture supporters can do their part by urging politicians to grant licenses to responsible farmers. “One of the big issues that we’re having right now in the United States is that coastal landowners don’t want to see these farms in their backyards,” she explained. “In Washington state, 927 licenses to farm oysters and mussels were denied by a judge because of a false narrative from these coastal landowners. So I think we all have to get involved.”
Bushman also believes it’s time to allow more aquaculture in federal waters. “It’s going to be important to create the food that we need in the United States because we have a seafood deficit right now,” she said. “We import more than 70 percent of our fish and seafood, so we need to farm more in U.S. waters. But we need to do it right.”
Check out this great “Blue Food” recipe from Jennifer Bushman here