Seaweed. Photo by Silas Baisch/Unsplash

Most oysters grown in Alaska get consumed here, while seaweed farmed in the 49th state – especially kelp – has become the fastest growing branch of the state’s aquaculture industry selling well in Asia, according to a new report from the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development. 

Alaska farms sold nearly 873,000 wet pounds of kelp last year to the public or other farms, up from nearly nothing in 2016, state labor economist Sara Whitney notes in the December issue of Alaska Economic Trends, a monthly publication of the state agency.  

The state is home to Seagrove Kelp, the nation’s largest kelp farm, which covers 100 acres near Craig.   

Mollusks, a variety of seaweeds, sea cucumbers and urchins are also grown along the coastline of southeastern, southcentral and southwestern Alaska. The state overall has 95 active aquaculture operations and permitted acreage has grown from less than 350 acres in 2016 to currently over 1,360 acres. 

Oysters have proven to be the highest value crop, with Pacific oysters sold to the public worth nearly $1.5 million in 2022. That number is rising again after taking a dive during the COVID-19 pandemic, when demand plummeted. The oysters themselves are a special case, being not native to Alaska.  Farms here purchase seed stock from other West Coast states and Hawaii. 

Still Alaska represents just a fraction of a percent of the world’s seaweed market. 


Seaweed is used as an ingredient in a variety of foods, medicines and personal care products worldwide, even in toothpaste. Carrageenan is a natural ingredient derived from red seaweed, chondrus crispus, also known as Irish moss, and most Crest Pro-Health toothpastes contain carrageenan, which helps to stabilize and thicken the consistence of toothpastes. 

Seaweed continues to show up in more and more products, from pasta to tea and jerky. Barnacle Foods in Juneau produces popular kelp salsas, sauces, and pickled snacks. 

In 2022 Alaska’s aquaculture businesses employed on average 349 workers a month, with average monthly wages being $3,325. Total wages paid in 2022 totaled $17.3 million.