They're back: Blue mussels and menhaden have returned to Long Island Sound this year in huge numbers. On this 40th anniversary of the Clean Water Act, many of us are celebrating their homecoming as a sign of the progress made reviving the sound. More needs to be done, but this welcome news of cleaner waters opens the opportunity to begin farming the urban sea.
Aquaculture has rightly earned a reputation for growing low-quality seafood at the expense of the environment, but a new form of ocean-friendly farming has emerged right outside of New York City. These small-scale vertical farms -- some of the first in the country -- are designed to grow multiple species of seaweed and shellfish, have small footprints, and provide an array of environmental benefits. Picture them as three-dimensional gardens, where seaweed, mussels, and scallops grow at the top of the water column, stacked above oysters and clams below. (Full disclosure: One of the authors of this article runs such a farm. There are also several others currently in
the permitting process.)
Eating local seaweed may seem exotic, but it’s coming to a plate near you.