Dr. Mike Graham, Monterey Bay Seaweeds
Phycologist. Professor. Entrepreneur. Moss Landing Marine Laboratories’ Mike Graham wears many hats on any given day. He edits the world’s leading scientific journal on kelp, teaches classes, mentors graduate students, and runs an aquaculture research facility all while supplying some of the best chefs in the country with raw, living seaweeds.
Graham has taken his research as a phycologist (seaweed biologist) and created Monterey Bay Seaweeds, a first-of-a-kind public-private partnership with San Jose State University, which is charged with overseeing operations at Moss Landing Marine Labs. He farms seaweeds native to California with just Monterey Bay water and sunshine.
“About five years ago my wife (Erica) and I decided to spin off some of our research ideas to see if we could farm seaweeds on land to be eaten by humans,” Graham says, noting his operation is the first seaweed farm in the United State outside of Hawaii.
Erica Graham’s background as a chef and restaurateur help her husband take their product from the world of science to professional kitchens. Local restaurants that serve Monterey Bay Seaweeds include Aubergine and Carmel Bouchée in and Carmel, Passionfish in Pacific Grove and Poke Lab in Monterey.
Commercial fishermen haven’t been known as a crowd to enthusiastically embrace aquaculture, often seeing it as unwanted competition to the wild product. But farming seaweed is different than farming salmon and Mike Graham sees his work at the Moss Landing Marine Labs’ aquaculture facility as complementing the livelihoods of the fishermen in the port.
“Our goal here is to really develop product, research and innovation that’s another layer on top of what I consider to be a really healthy and sustainable set of local fisheries here in California,” he says.
Outside of his own Monterey Bay Seaweeds, the aquaculture facility also serves as a research and development incubator for other private enterprises that seek to create new markets and enrich local marine ecosystems. One such project looks to fatten purple sea urchins to develop a viable fishery for a species now known as an ecological problem.