June 24, 2011
For immediate release
Pilot project to harvest sea lettuce
Environment, Energy & Forestry
“The amount of sea lettuce growing in estuaries harms the fishery, tourism, recreational activities, and the aesthetic value of our water and our land,” said Minister Brown. “While government is working closely with stakeholders to reduce nitrates in estuaries, this pilot project will explore the feasibility of harvesting and composting sea lettuce to restore the health of our estuaries.”
The Provincial Government is partnering with Prince Edward Island Watershed Alliance and the Prince Edward Island Shellfish Association to run the pilot project. Funding of $75,000 will be provided to run the three-week pilot project. The trial will examine the effectiveness of removing sea lettuce from estuaries and it will also explore the potential of value-added opportunities that may exist with harvested sea lettuce.
“I am pleased that this project is moving forward to test technology to harvest sea lettuce,” said Fisheries, Aquaculture and Rural Development Minister Neil LeClair. “We have had input from a number of stakeholders on this issue and are pleased to support the initiative. If successful, there is huge potential to benefit the shellfish fishery, to improve water quality in the estuaries and to supply a source of nutrients to the farming community.”
“I am very intrigued about the possibility of using sea lettuce as a nutrient for crop production,” said Agriculture Minister George Webster. “This will be a very worthwhile pilot project which could result in long-term benefits for the agriculture industry.”
A local company has brought in harvesting equipment and an experienced operator from Florida. The operator will provide training to run the equipment and share his expertise harvesting the product. The sea lettuce will be spread on farm fields to explore its value as compost.
The 2008 Report of the Commission on Nitrates in Groundwater identified a strategy to reduce nitrate pollution which can cause heavy sea lettuce growth. The provincial government is working closely with farmers and other stakeholders to implement the Commission’s recommendations.