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What’s wrong with kelp?

Kelp at Birch Aquarium
Kelp at Birch Aquarium

With a growth rate equal to bamboo at up to two feet per day, kelp forests along California’s coast have been harvested since World War I. The first large industrial uses of kelp were for potash to make gunpowder and fertilizer for farming. Kelp was harvested then by wrapping the lower stalk with cable, a process that usually ripped the plant up from its root, or “holdfast,” attached to rock between 20 and 80 feet deep.

Kelp’s value in food, pharmaceutical, and industrial applications has led to the collection of 120,000 metric tons a year by ships fitted with kelp-cutting machinery. It keeps ice cream smooth, prevents ink from sinking through paper, suspends the spices in salad dressing, and helps a coat of paint lie down so you can’t see the brush strokes when dry.

After nearly 1500 kelp operations shut down after the end of the First World War in 1918, the business in San Diego didn’t revive until Kelp Co began in National City in 1929. Pulling kelp by the roots was strenuous labor; San Diego State football players in the 1930s were hired to get the kelp.

In the 1950s, the Scripps Institute of Oceanography in La Jolla began studying the effect of the harvesting industry on fish and other animals depending on the kelp canopy. Despite modern techniques of sustainable harvesting, local harvesting companies have left for areas like Scotland.

Past Event

Sea Days: Kelp Kornucopia

Scripps is offering Kelp Kornucopia from 11 a.m.–3 p.m. on Saturday, November 21, where visitors can interview Scripps coastal researchers, watch an interactive kelp tank dive show, and get hands slimy with real kelp. The program is included with aquarium admission.

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Kelp at Birch Aquarium
Kelp at Birch Aquarium

With a growth rate equal to bamboo at up to two feet per day, kelp forests along California’s coast have been harvested since World War I. The first large industrial uses of kelp were for potash to make gunpowder and fertilizer for farming. Kelp was harvested then by wrapping the lower stalk with cable, a process that usually ripped the plant up from its root, or “holdfast,” attached to rock between 20 and 80 feet deep.

Kelp’s value in food, pharmaceutical, and industrial applications has led to the collection of 120,000 metric tons a year by ships fitted with kelp-cutting machinery. It keeps ice cream smooth, prevents ink from sinking through paper, suspends the spices in salad dressing, and helps a coat of paint lie down so you can’t see the brush strokes when dry.

After nearly 1500 kelp operations shut down after the end of the First World War in 1918, the business in San Diego didn’t revive until Kelp Co began in National City in 1929. Pulling kelp by the roots was strenuous labor; San Diego State football players in the 1930s were hired to get the kelp.

In the 1950s, the Scripps Institute of Oceanography in La Jolla began studying the effect of the harvesting industry on fish and other animals depending on the kelp canopy. Despite modern techniques of sustainable harvesting, local harvesting companies have left for areas like Scotland.

Past Event

Sea Days: Kelp Kornucopia

Scripps is offering Kelp Kornucopia from 11 a.m.–3 p.m. on Saturday, November 21, where visitors can interview Scripps coastal researchers, watch an interactive kelp tank dive show, and get hands slimy with real kelp. The program is included with aquarium admission.

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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