Danes can now grow sustainable kitchen gardens at sea

Sea-kitchen gardens seem to be catching on everywhere along the Danish coasts. The project Havhøst propagates the idea of sea-based kitchen gardens, where private citizens or communities can grow mussels, oysters and seaweed, using sustainable methods.

24. Jun 2019

Looking over the bay of Ebeltoft Vig you will see blue buyons being carried by the waves, indicating that something is under water. When diving into the sea you will find Havhaven. A maritime kitchen garden where seaweed, oysters and mussels are grown for private use. Havhaven Ebeltoft Vig forms the basis of a new project Havhøst (Danish for “sea harvest”), which aims to strengthen the cooperation between existing, maritime kitchen gardens and ensure that more gardens are established in Denmark.

The association behind the project also wishes to enhance awareness of sea gardens and invite e.g. school classes to events, that can provide children with a better understanding of edible marine resources and the sustainable exploitation of the marine raw material basis. The network holds meetings and develops different tools, that make it easier and more fun to establish sea gardens.

The first Danish sea garden

The man behind the sea-kitchen garden concept is Per Andersen, senior specialist at NIRAS. Per is a marine biologist and deals with monitoring the Danish marine waters in his everyday work for the commercial bivalve industry, aquaculture and the Danish Environmental Protection Agency, among others. He has taken part in initiating the first sea-kitchen garden in Ebeltoft Vig and Fjordhaverne in the Limfjord.

Since 2012, Havhaven Ebeltoft Vig has been used by up to 100 local citizens to grow bivalves and seaweed for their own consumption. In that way, numerous residents and holiday cottage owners come together through a common interest in the larder of the sea. But the association is much more than just a “shellfish and seaweed club”. Its activities have helped to strengthen and develop the local environment in Ebeltoft harbor.

“The sea garden interacts with the local environment and helps to preserve the maritime cultural heritage. We take part in different coast festivals and invite to cooking events, speaking engagements and excursions,” says Per Andersen who is also a committee member of the Havhaven Ebeltoft Vig association.

Today, six sea-kitchen gardens are located in Ebeltoft, Lemvig, Løgstør, Aalborg, Nykøbing Mors and Kerteminde in Denmark, but the project Havhøst will help setting up more. The sea-kitchen garden (project) concept is easy to copy, adapt and further develop also outside Denmark, in places where there is an interest in working together on small scale community based marine aquaculture. It is a prerequisite that the environmental conditions are suitable for growing your “crops” such as mussels, oysters and sugar kelp, and that the food safety conditions are in accordance with the national guidelines.

NIRAS selects the perfect “sea site”

NIRAS serves as consultant on the project Havhøst, selecting possible sites for new sea gardens in the Danish coastal zones. According to Per, certain things must be considered in an optimal site selection:

“As part of our site selection we carry out a risk assessment of the food safety by screening bivalves for harmful algae and algae toxins. At the same time, we take account of microbial pollution from e.g. waste water. In the case of protected areas, an environmental impact assessment must also be carried out. Furthermore, it is always a good idea to inquire with other users of the coastal area in order to ensure that the sea garden does not disturb existing activities in the area.”

The allotment of tomorrow

With a historically Danish tradition of locally 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 creates an interaction between the local communit and the marine environment. It is also a golden platform for teaching and communication. According to Per it can become an eye-opener for the underwater life:

“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.”

An obvious idea for developing Danish coastal zones

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. NIRAS consults municipalities and docks companies on coastal zone projects from the early concept development and planning to the final project work and establishment. NIRAS also provide support for new sea-kitchen garden associations as part of e.g. their 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. He looks forward to seeing the new sea gardens come into existence through the project.

Per Andersen on the buyos of Havhaven