When Per decided to become a marine biologist it did not come as a surprise to anybody. His interest in the sea has followed him since childhood where time was always spent in fishing and nature expeditions near the family’s holiday cottage. After a PhD in Marine Biology in 1987 focusing on microbiology of the sea, Per became a consultant and took part in developing the toxic algae monitoring programme, which is currently used by the bivalve industry.
At one point of his life, Per was close to becoming a part-time bivalve producer at the Limfjord, Denmark. However, it was difficult for him to give up the job as a consultant, and he therefore felt the need to come up with something that could combine those two things. This was where the idea of an community-based “sea-kitchen” garden arose. Since then, Per has, among other things, taken part in initiating the first sea-kitchen garden in Ebeltoft Vig and Fjordhaverne in the Limfjord.
The modern allotment at sea
In many of the larger cities in Denmark, harbour areas are continually being redeveloped into residential areas. Here Per sees a golden opportunity to incorporate the concept of sea-kitchen gardens. They can contribute with attractive activities at the locality and brand the municipality by helping grow modern, sustainable food products. With a historically Danish tradition of locally community-based, anchored kitchen gardens, the sea-kitchen garden may become the future’s marine allotment. A sustainable kitchen garden that promotes the interest in marine environment both among local residents and the many tourists who visit the Danish coastal zone municipalities every year.
The sea-kitchen garden is the golden platform for teaching and communication. According to Per it can become an eye-opener for the underwater life and contribute to many of the UN Sustainable Development Goals:
Once you dive into the sea and start to take an interest in the bivalves and seaweed that you grow, you suddenly become aware of the marine environment and the obstacles and possibilities to influence our marine resources.
As a senior specialist at NIRAS, Per also takes part in incorporating sea-kitchen gardens in the municipal development plans. The sea-kitchen garden is a simple and obvious element to integrate in the development of coastal zones with e.g. harbour baths, landing stages and other adventure facilities.
“We also provide support for new sea-kitchen garden associations as part of e.g. the start-up, procuring of permissions and dialogue with the local stakeholders and authorities. We are able to do this as we have tried it before and have much expertise in marine environment and establishment as well as management of projects regarding sea-kitchen gardens,” Per states.
Per is a committee member of Havhaven Ebeltoft Vig. The sea-based kitchen garden has since 2012 been jointly owned by up to 100 local citizens who use the garden to grow sugar kelp and common mussels – and even oyster broods have succeeded in surviving. Prior to the now well-run association, a lot of work has been put into site selection which involves finding the right location for the sea-kitchen garden, preparing applications and providing technical assistance, including buying appliances. Per has willingly provided his expertise in fulfilling all these tasks.
“At the moment we are considering growing bacon out there, and with that I mean the bacon of the sea – the red alga dulse,” Per says. He also tells that we can expect many exciting opportunities for sea-kitchen gardens in the future – both for the good of the environment, development of new enterprises, tourism and local communities.