Exploring Seaweed Cultivation on Fogo Island

December 7, 2022

Over the summer, Shorefast held a community and information consultation at the Lion’s Club in the community of Fogo to present on the progress of our Seaweed Pilot. The meeting, one of several held over the course of the Pilot, marked a year of exploration into the commercial viability of seaweed farming on Fogo Island. 

The Pilot, led by Shorefast and in partnership with Fogo Island Cooperative Society Ltd and local fishers, along with the support of our funding partners Canadian Centre for Fisheries Innovation and the Marine Institute at Memorial University, involves understanding whether seaweed can grow reliably in different areas around Fogo Island with the ability to produce enough harvest to make it practical to pursue as a new market diversification product. Nascent business exploration has indicated that small-scale production of seaweed products would fit well with the high-value and niche market that seaweed draws. If seaweed cultivation is successful, the Pilot has the potential to be a scalable diversification opportunity for many parts of Atlantic Canada.

Shorefast’s environmental stewardship coordinator is featured on CBC’s The Broadcast talking about the potential for seaweed cultivation on Fogo Island

An important part of Shorefast’s work under the banner of Environmental Stewardship is to find new ways to create economic opportunity for our community while relying on the inherent knowledge and geographic assets already in place. Crucially, seaweed is a sustainable, plant-based nutritional food that has economic and environmental benefits: growing seaweed is environmentally regenerative and adds to the health of the marine ecosystem, while also capturing carbon. Most published literature suggests that aquaculture – including seaweed – enhances lobster stocks in the vicinity, a relationship that dovetails well with our community’s strong fishing economy.

At the meeting in August our environmental stewardship coordinator and other community engagement facilitators fielded questions and feedback about the next steps of the project with many community members showing interest in getting involved with the initiative. The group, as well as Shorefast and its partners, is enthused by the notion of Fogo Island becoming a pioneer in seaweed cultivation along the North Atlantic coast.

In the current phase of the project, seaweed test plots have been mapped around the island and we are preparing to deploy test lines that will be regularly monitored. Recent results look promising and if all goes well, we anticipate being able to harvest the seaweed in the summer of 2023; at this point we will have a greater understanding of the opportunity going forward.

As part of our efforts to build a market, Fogo Island Inn’s kitchen has been experimenting with potential food products that could result from a seaweed harvest. Two recent small-batch products, which can be found on display at the Orange Lodge on Fogo Island, include Black Kelp Mustard and Sea Buckthorn Sauce. Tim Charles, Executive Chef of the Fogo Island Inn, says the condiments can be paired with anything, but, of course, he highly recommends them with cod!