Blue Beacon: Rapid Growth – Kelp as Source of Solutions


16 Nov, 2023


Gulf of Maine Research Institute
Cohen Center
350 Commercial St.
Portland, Maine 04101

Seaweed has long been recognized as an important element of healthy ocean ecosystems and in promoting biodiversity. Recently, additional benefits of seaweed are gaining attention. Chief among them is the opportunity for: (1) economic diversification (2) a nutritional, renewable food source, and (3) its efficacy at sequestering carbon dioxide from the ambient environment. The growth of the kelp aquaculture industry in Maine presents an opportunity to support the local marine economy; eat local, sustainable seafood; create or restore habitat; and contribute to addressing climate change.

Join the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation and the Gulf of Maine Research Institute on November 16, 2023 from 5:30-7 PM, in Portland for a discussion on how kelp aquaculture is a leading contributor to Maine’s growing blue economy and how it can be a model for supporting healthy communities, marine habitats, and economies.

The event includes a short reception with drinks and hors d’oeuvres prior to the moderated discussion. Thank you to our partners at Atlantic Sea Farms and Urban Farm Fermentory. 

About our participants

Moderator: Peter Van Allen, Editor, Mainebiz

Peter Van Allen has been the editor at Mainebiz, Maine’s business news publication, for nearly a decade. Over more than three decades as a business journalist, he’s been a staff editor and/or reporter at the Philadelphia Business Journal, American Banker in NYC; the Post-Tribune in Gary, Ind.; and Courier-Post in Cherry Hill, N.J. He’s written for the New York Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, WoodenBoat magazine, Down East and Maine Boats, Homes & Harbors. He lives in Yarmouth with his wife Jen and their son. He is also an avid paddler and surfer and serves on the Yarmouth Harbor & Waterfront Committee.

Briana Warner, President & CEO, Atlantic Sea Farms

Briana has dedicated her life to doing well by doing good. She is passionate about our incredible home state of Maine and working with our partner farmers to help create a more resilient and thriving coast. As the CEO of Atlantic Sea Farms, she and her team have forged a new path for seaweed aquaculture in the US by working with fishermen to grow kelp as a climate change adaptation strategy – and building national demand for that kelp. The ASF team and partner farmers now account for the majority of line-grown kelp grown in the US and are proving that a model that puts farmers, planet, and people first can drive an entirely new way of producing food. Bri has followed a mission-driven path that brought her to kelp – including serving several tours as a diplomat in the U.S. Foreign Service, starting and selling a wholesale bakery focused on employing newly resettled refugees, and creating the first Economic Development programming suite at the Maine-based Island Institute.

Nick Branchina, Director of Fisheries and Aquaculture, Coastal Enterprises, Inc.

Nick is the Director, Fisheries & Aquaculture Program at Coastal Enterprises, Inc. (CEI), a Maine-based community development financial institution with a mission to build just, vibrant and climate-resilient futures for people and communities in Maine and rural regions by integrating finance, business expertise and policy solutions in ways that make the economy work more equitably. As CEI’s Director, Fisheries & Aquaculture Program Nick supports Maine’s fisheries and aquaculture businesses by connecting them to market opportunities and to CEI’s lending and business advisory services. He facilitates growth of Maine’s seafood industry via strategy and outreach, fundraising and enterprise development, providing direct technical and financial assistance to the marine sector. He has provided training on such topics as sales, marketing and customer discovery to new seafood businesses via the Aquaculture in Shared Waters program and the Maine Center for Entrepreneurs “Top Gun” program. He currently serves on FocusMaine’s Aquaculture Implementation Team, SEAMaine’s Market Development Subcommittee, and the Department of Marine Resources’ Maine Seafood Marketing Advisory.

Nick brings to CEI over two decades of professional expertise in marketing, branding, sales, and business development, with much of his career working in Maine’s seafood sector. In addition to a consultancy practice assisting market development with a Maine-based online lobster retailer, Nick also served as Director of Marketing of a nationally renowned Portland seafood company whose legacy ranks among one of Maine’s most prominent brands. His decade-long career at there included oversight of all aspects of marketing and advertising, public relations, purchasing and sales, and seafood product development and promotion.  Prior to his career in Maine, he worked in Washington D.C. where he held multiple marketing positions in the trade association and consulting sectors. Nick lives in Kennebunk with his two sons.

Dr. Nichole Price, Senior Research Scientist and Director, Center for Seafood Solutions, Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences

Nichole Price is a benthic marine ecologist with interest in how global change phenomena, like ocean acidification and warming, can alter bottom-dwelling species interactions, community dynamics, and ecosystem function in shallow coastal regimes. Her work focuses primarily on the eco-physiology of seaweeds and calcifying invertebrates and their current and future role in dissolved inorganic carbon and nutrient cycling. Nichole utilizes state-of-the-art analytical tools including prototype autonomous oceanographic instrument packages in field campaigns, develops custom experimental aquaria in the lab, and applies emerging technological approaches (like environmental DNA) to tackle fundamental ecological research questions about population dynamics, biological feedbacks, and ecosystem services. Nichole also applies her expertise to explore mitigation strategies for coastal acidification (the ‘Halo’ effect) and climate change (e.g., blue carbon and uses of farmed seaweeds). She has focused on these topics primarily on tropical coral reefs and temperate systems and extrapolates her results from each biome to regional and global scales using statistical modelling.

Carissa Maurin, Aquaculture Program Manager, Gulf of Maine Research Institute

Carissa is the Aquaculture Program Manager here at GMRI, where she started in November of 2019 with a focus on supporting the sustainable growth of the aquaculture sector in the Gulf of Maine. She works collaboratively with industry leaders, farmers, researchers, the business community, and other nonprofits to identify and pursue opportunities that will secure its healthy future. Prior to GMRI, Carissa received her B.S. from Monmouth University where she majored in Biology with a double concentration in Marine & Environmental Biology as well as Molecular Cell Physiology and a minor in Chemistry. Leading into her Master’s program she worked at a shellfish hatchery in East Hampton, NY for two years growing eastern oysters, hard clams, and bay scallops, receiving valuable hands-on experience in the world of aquaculture. She received her M.S. in Marine Science from the University of New England focusing on ‘Food webs and species biodiversity of the fouling community associated with bivalve aquaculture farms compared to analogous non-farm structures’. Her research was subsequently published in the scientific journal, Marine Environmental Research.

About the Blue Beacon Series

The National Marine Sanctuary’s Blue Beacon Series aims to bring to light the ocean and Great Lakes’ biggest challenges through panels, lectures, and film screenings hosted around the country in order to build communities of support for marine protected areas. This series builds on the momentum of Capitol Hill Ocean Week, the nation’s premier conference on ocean and Great Lakes policy issues by bringing these important conversations into locally relevant contexts. For more information, visit


Please contact Abigail Rodgers,