The Commercial Potential of Kelp

The goal of this project was to help kick-start a new economically and environmentally beneficial kelp aquaculture enterprise for the Ahous Business Corporation (ABC).

Project Dates: March – August 2019
Funding Amount: $25,000
Students Hired: 3

NIC student Ashley Riley holds up a test line of sugar kelp, near Tofino, BC

Project Summary

Sugar kelp was cultured at two aquaculture sites in Ahousaht First Nation traditional territory, off the west coast of Vancouver Island. One site was a vacant aquaculture tenure while the second site was a salmon farm operated by Cermaq Canada (a collaborator on the project).

Sugar kelp yield, nutrient content (carbon, nitrogen, iodine, and others), and trace metals content were compared between the two sites. The goal of the project was to determine the sites’ commercial potential for kelp aquaculture by measuring the kelp yield and quality, and to characterize one of kelp’s ecosystem services – nutrient absorption. ABC will continue kelp research and commercialization efforts in collaboration with NIC and Cermaq Canada.

Research Team

Allison Byrne
Allison Byrne, Researcher
Allison Byrne (Allie) is a researcher in NIC’s Centre for Applied Research, Technology and Innovation where her focus is applied aquaculture research. Most of her work involves field-based seaweed and shellfish research projects that engage local industry partners and NIC students. Allie has an MSc in Geography from the University of Victoria.


Company Partners


Project Outcomes

  • Kelp quality was excellent at both sites, though yield was higher at the vacant tenure compared to the salmon farm.
  • Kelp near the salmon farm absorbed significantly more carbon and nitrogen than kelp at the empty tenure. Carbon and nitrogen content in the kelp samples was used to estimate the nutrient removal per meter of culture line at both sites.
  • The concentration of 25 trace metals was tested in dried kelp samples from both sites. To put these results in the context of kelp food products, they were converted into the amount per 5 g serving of dried kelp and compared to daily intake recommendations.
  • The training and results from this project will support the commercialization of kelp aquaculture by Ahous Business Corp.

News Stories and Coverage

National Observer: Coastal First Nations ahead of the curve in cultivating seaweed industry