Shellfish Farmer Finds Help in Kelp

An article published in a Western Washington University student magazine says that marine biologist and shellfish farmer Joth Davis from Baywater Shellfish Company near Port Gamble, Washington, is looking to kelp to help save shellfish from the impact ocean acidification.

Back in 2016, Davis and a team of oceanographers, biologists and chemists, led by the Puget Sound Restoration Fund, started testing kelp’s natural ability to absorb dissolved carbon dioxide in Puget Sound waters. They wanted to learn whether kelp could soak up enough carbon to create a halo of healthy water around shellfish growing areas.

“The potential degradation of shellfish populations through the next century is projected to severely impact the global economy. Economists at the Kiel Institute for the World Economy have projected potential losses of $100 billion by 2100, “the article reads.

As the largest producer of farmed shellfish in the nation, Washington shellfish growers are concerned, and that is why shellfish farmers like Davis are excited about the kelp research.

“If the results of the Puget Sound Restoration Fund kelp study suggest that it can effectively buffer carbon in hatchery waters, other shellfish farmers may begin to incorporate kelp farming into their business model,” Davis said. An add-on benefit is that farmers can sell the kelp they grow.

Davis has seen enough potential with this method that he has taken the next step. His shellfish farm will be the first to incorporate commercial kelp cultivation into farm operations, with the first harvest planned for this spring.

“The whole industry is a canary in the coal mine,” Davis told WWU student Cameron Ohlson, the author of the article. “We hope that as the canary did, we don’t die.”

The report on the kelp research was published in the Fall 2018 edition of The Planet, a publication of Huxley College of the Environment at Western Washington University. The article can be found online at