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New law OKs pilot project to cultivate lucrative seaweed

ALBANY — Suffolk County is now authorized to begin a pilot program to see if underwater land can be used to cultivate seaweed as a lucrative crop popular in high-end restaurants, according to a state law signed Friday.

Sen. Kenneth LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) and Assemb. Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor) sponsored the bill that will allow the research and scientific assessment of the project in Gardiner’s and Peconic bays where shellfish is already harvested.

Profitable seaweed harvesting in Maine and Connecticut helped push the bill, which was approved in the Legislature in June.

Sugar kelp is a seaweed used as a sweet culinary treat from Asia to Scotland and grows in Peconic Bay and could be marketed to high-end restaurants. It is eaten in seaweed salads, sushi and soup, and used as a thickener or stabilizer in foods such as pudding and ice cream.

In 2015, Charles Yarish, a University of Connecticut professor, told Newsday the local seaweed farms could produce a crop worth $47 million a year.

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