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Northwest Fisheries Science Center (NWFSC) Environmental and Fisheries Sciences EFS - Aquaculture


Production of Macroalgae for Human Consumption in the Pacific Northwest
This proposal will focus on the production of fresh macroalgae in a land-based system. This type of production system avoids the regulatory and permitting issues associated with water-based systems, allows precise control of the rearing environment, reduces harvesting and management costs, and reduces nutrient discharges. While macroalgae can enhance human health, specific information is needed to ensure that this product is wholesome and safe to consume. Very little information is available on the composition of farmed raised macroalgae, contaminant levels, bacterial content, and post-harvest quality issues. This research will focus on three local macroalgae: Turkish towel (Chondracanthus exasperatus), Pacific dulse (Palmaria palmata), and sea lettuce (Ulva rigida). Dulse and sea lettuce are widely eaten in Canada and Europe.

This basic information is needed to support the development of commercial macroalgae aquaculture in the Pacific Northwest. This research will be conducted at the Sol-Sea Farm; a production aquaculture facility located at the NOAA/NMFS research station in Manchester, WA. Current work will focus on improving product quality and reducing operational costs.

Research Themes

Sustainable, safe and secure seafood for healthy populations and vibrant communities
Effective fisheries management provides economic opportunities and ensures the long-term sustainability of fisheries and the habitats on which they depend. The NWFSC seeks to improve the quality and quantity of data used in stock assessments, the methods for assessing stocks and ecosystem sustainability within the context of human modification of the environment. The NWFSC also provides state-of-the-art science and technology to support aquaculture while protecting and maintaining ecosystem health. Further, pathogens, toxins from harmful algal blooms (HABs), chemical contaminants and other stressors of marine ecosystems pose significant risks to health of both seafood resources and to humans. The NWFSC focuses on research to improve understanding of those risks, how to forecast them, and identify means to mitigate their impacts.

Research Foci

Develop research and technology to foster innovative and sustainable approaches to aquaculture
The NOAA Aquaculture Policy calls for enabling sustainable aquaculture that provides domestic jobs, products, and services and that is in harmony with healthy, productive, and resilient marine ecosystems. To achieve these goals, NWFSC’s research examines scientific and technical issues to support aquaculture production. NWFSC research also considers potential impacts of aquaculture practices on the environment and on wild populations of fish and shellfish and methods for diminishing those impacts. Specific research objectives include (1) identify methods for reducing reliance on forage fish protein and oil in aquaculture feeds; this includes the evaluation of plant and microbe-based alternatives for fish meal and oil, because fishmeal and oil used in producing artificial fish diets is unsustainable and often a source of contaminants, (2) evaluate and model potential genetic impacts of aquaculture escapes on natural populations, (3) develop shellfish research that will support regional initiatives, such as the Washington Shellfish Initiative, especially native shellfish restoration and (4) develop new marine species for aquaculture and shore-based marine recirculating aquaculture systems.


bacterial levels
DDT and PCBs
Chondracanthus exasperatus, Palmaria palmata, and Ulva rigida
proximate composition
protein, lipids, and ash


None associated


Species Chondracanthus exasperatus
Species Palmaria palmata
dillisk, dulse
Species Ulva rigida
sea lettuce


Brad Gadberry
Desmond Maynard
John Colt
Principal Investigator
Ronald Johnson