Canada’s kelp forests are at risk. A seaweed farmer is trying to save them

This story is part of coastlines, an original series with the CBC Creator Network exploring Canada’s oceans. You can watch every episode of the series here.

The ocean is home to some of the planet’s most productive ecosystems: kelp forests.

Like trees, kelp acts as a carbon sink, while playing a role in the survival of thousands of marine species.

“Some species of kelp produce more biomass annually per square meter than tropical rainforests,” said Rebecca Evans, a master’s student at the Memorial University of Newfoundland.

Kelp is a type of seaweed that comes in many varieties in oceans around the world — including the Arctic, where Evans is studying how the species has adapted to survive in the frigid waters.

She’s also studying the impacts of climate change, which threatens the balance of the ecosystems kelp supports.

WATCH | How young Canadians are trying to save kelp forests

Kelp forests are particularly vulnerable to climate change, threatened by ocean acidification, rising ocean temperatures, increasing levels of severe weather and the introduction of invasive species.

But on British Columbia’s west coast, a young entrepreneur believes the commercialization of kelp can help combat the problems that threaten its survival.

On a blue-sky day in Vancouver, seaweed farmer Majid Hajibeigy pulls a handful of sugar kelp out of the water onto his boat. A fast-growing, dark brown plant, Hajibeigy describes the sugar kelp as “constantly hungry.”

Our oceans absorb between 25 to 30 per cent of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Kelp plays a big role in processing it through photosynthesis.

“It’s a natural filter,” Haijbeigy said.

Haijbeigy and his team grow and harvest kelp that is turned into agricultural feed, fertilizer and food, all while acting as a carbon sink.

He says his dream is to expand these operations and create more kelp farms to help in the fight against climate change.

Once harvested, sugar kelp can be turned into agricultural feed, fertilizer and food. (Canadian Pacific Seaweeds)

Haijbeigy isn’t alone. Around the world, there has been increased interest in the potential of kelp farms to help combat climate change despite challenges, including the need for countries to reduces carbon emissions regardless of how much seaweed is produced.

Haijbeigy says he believes the marriage of farming and conservation through kelp has huge potential to make a positive impact.

“We have a big task ahead of us and a lot of questions to ask, but if we do it right, this could be it,” he said.

“This could change the world.”

LISTEN | Majid Hajibeigy on how kelp forests can help fight climate change

The Early Edition8:09BC kelp farmer featured in the CBC Coastlines series about what exactly makes kelp so important to the environment

A CBC video series called Coastlines has been released and over the next several weeks we are going to hear from researchers around Canada to explain the ins-and-outs of our oceans. Today, we hear from a kelp farmer about how kelp positively impacts the environment.

About this series

coastlines is an original series with the CBC Creator Network that dives into the future of Canadian coastlines and marine life, and the young researchers who are trying to protect them.

Co-hosted by wildlife conservationist and educator Connel Bradwell of Vancouver Island, and commercial fisher and science technician Erica Porter of Nova Scotia, every episode of coastlines features researchers from the West, North and East coasts.

You can watch every episode of coastlines on cbc.ca.

About the Creator Network

The Creator Network amplifies the voices of the next generation of Canadian storytellers and connects them with CBC platforms, where they tell compelling stories and share unique perspectives that reflect the country in all its diversity. Learn more.

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