As we find ourselves in this time of collective uncertainty of what lies ahead, we have strengthened our commitment to being a beacon of truth. Those who defend and protect our Earth and its precious resources need to be heard now. We can not stop our broadcast despite its unpopular presence in some circles of power. Since it has been over 1 year since the 2015 Seaweed Festival, and since there has been continued, yet misguided, attention from the press and other organizations about the local seaweed industry, we thought we would update you with a few truths.
The Maine Seaweed Festival was not cancelled for any other reason than our concern over our precious natural (local) resource, seaweed.
We are not singling anyone out as a culprit for our concern. There is no ‘riff’, yet there is a serious lack of responsible management and transparent communication.
We Repeat: We are simply concerned that eventually, with the current rise in popularity of seaweeds globally, combined with the lack of effective management locally, the resource is likely to be in jeopardy. This would be in line with the pattern that has plagued many of our other fisheries. We believe this is a reasonable position and it is the only one we have espoused.
And yet this call to action for awareness and attention to the issue has resulted in a number of apparently fear-based “damage control” tactics put in play by several members in the seaweed industry. This has shocked us and has unfortunately separated us from parties that we once considered allies. We remain hopeful that we can find harmony as we strive to heal the inaccuracies and insecurities that are currently adrift in both the wild harvest and aquaculture industries. We believe it takes a village to create victory!
No one knows how much wild seaweed is in our local waters, what environmental issues may be affecting the biomass and what the healthy ratio of harvest should be based on those findings.
It is irresponsible to claim otherwise.
Furthermore, there is no way to verify that a harvester or farmer is abiding by best practices. Without proper training and education based on sound ecological principles, we are concerned that the average harvester is not aware of how to ensure sustainability. We are also concerned about the lack of proper management of the resource. Without science based management and full accountability of harvesters and companies working in our coastal areas, wild seaweed is at risk of overexploitation. Written word and trust in “the way things have always been” is no longer enough to insure protection and prosperity for our future. We must mature and commit to conscious and cautious action to remedy this.
Just like lobster, seaweed is recognized by Maine’s Department of Marine Resources as a fishery. And yet, it is unmonitored and goes virtually unnoticed in the countless local discussions around dedication to our maritime heritage and preservation of our coastal communities.
What has happened to other unmonitored and over harvested fisheries?
Many parties involved in seaweed aquaculture do not have a real-world understanding of what it will take to build a successful, sustainable, seaweed aquaculture industry here in North America.
Several parties have been blinded by promises of prosperity that are the core of an oft-repeated myth about the local seaweed aquaculture industry. Again, others will try to dispute this and many have no idea how to compute this, but the truth is we do not have the necessary infrastructure in place to create prosperity in this market…yet. While we believe that seaweed aquaculture has the future potential to be a strong opportunity for the people of Maine, it should not be outsourced or exploited in this time of infancy and experimentation. Maine aquacultured seaweed should not be treated as a commodity, but as a valuable local food produced ethically and responsibly.
It concerns us deeply that there continues to be countless capitalizing on depressed/oppressed populations (eg, fishermen, women and native peoples) by offering opportunities that are like paper boats on open water, so they can continue to fund their organization through the next grant cycle. Ask yourself why every local marine organization has recently begun to tout the benefits and opportunities in seaweed aquaculture? Then talk with a fisherperson who has grown seaweed recently and see how well they were able to sell it. Don’t take our word for it, the proof is in the blancmange.
“It is a curious situation that the sea, from which life first arose should now be threatened by the activities of one form of that life. But the sea, though changed in a sinister way, will continue to exist; the threat is rather to life itself.” - Rachel Carson
We naively thought our clarity would be met with compassionate concern by those involved in the industry, yet that has not been the case.
Our coastal communities and citizens of Maine deserve better. And so does our ocean. Seaweed is a vital part of our ecosystem that plays a critical role in the health of our planet. It is a PRIVILEGE to have this Fishery. It does not take an anthropological adventure to see how we have abused and exploited our natural resources globally--especially our fisheries. This is a devastating global reality, as we are becoming more dependent than ever before on our ocean as a source of food security, energy and environmental health for our future. We are not the only voices of reason on this issue and we will not continue to idle while ignorance invades.
We are committed to our mission for social justice, responsibility and a conscious co-creative call to action:
- To hold those who capitalize on our natural resources for their livelihood to be held accountable for its safety and sustainability.
- To ensure traceability and transparency to the consumer.
- To educate, inspire and involve our communities to the ways they can get involved in this conversation.
- And finally, we hope to be able to confidently celebrate Seaweed and all it offers our land, bodies and sea once again.
Throughout history it has been those courageous enough to go against the tides of convenience that have moved our world into a wiser place. If we do not become self-reliant our destiny will be designed for us. This will be detrimental for all.
We have decided to dedicate 100% of our efforts to shifting the paradigm from within, which puts us in a position to promote awareness of these issues while supplying the public demand for local seaweeds through products, education and inspiring experiences. We will have some very exciting announcements to share soon. Stay tuned!
In Truth and Tensegrity,
Hillary, Sarah and Aaron