• Delmarva Peninsula;
  • nutrition;
  • proximate constituents;
  • seaweeds

Edible seaweeds have not been thoroughly explored for food, medicinal, or industrial purposes in the United States. This study compared selected proximate constituents of three edible seaweed species (Ulva lactuca L., Fucus vesiculosus L., and Gracilaria tikvahiae McLachan) at two sites for possible future development as a food crop on the Delmarva Peninsula. Sampling was conducted bimonthly at Chincoteague Memorial Park, Virginia, and Indian River Inlet, Delaware, from 2005 to 2008. Proximate constituents of moisture, ash, dietary fiber, proteins, and fat were measured seasonally and calorific values were calculated. Data were analyzed using correlation, paired samples t-tests and one- and two-way ANOVA. Significant variations in the proximate constituents were found among seasons, species, and between sites. The brown seaweed (Fucus) at both sites had higher fiber, fat, and ash (mineral) content than the green (Ulva) or the red (Gracilaria). Ulva and Gracilaria had higher protein content than Fucus. Seaweeds from Delaware had more fat, ash, and protein than from Virginia, potentially because of the more polluted, nutrient rich environment at the Delaware site. Positive correlations between seaweed fat and protein content may indicate an increase in the synthesis of both components under optimal growth conditions. Species' physiology differences and the water quality at the two sites likely impacted proximate constituent values. This study contributed new information to the existing body of knowledge in the areas of nutrition and ecology of seaweeds and their potential as a cash crop.