Why were so few sea vegetables harvested in 2014?
The Maine Department of Marine Resources (DMR) provides seaweed harvesting (landing) data. They catalog total landings and dollar value. You can find it all here. What they don’t do is break out sea vegetables from rockweed. And they show the data in a table, which is harder to read than a graph. So we decided to graph the sea vegetable data for you.
So what happened in 2014?
We don’t spend every day on the water, but we’ve spoken to plenty of fishermen who’ve made offhand comments like “I’m just not seeing seaweed where I used to.” That’s real, but not scientific.
We’ve spoken to DMR, but they don’t give any explanation. Nor will they provide landing data for any individuals. That’s private information. In fact, you can only access landing data if 3 or more harvesters use a given port, and harvesters only have to report in the first place if they harvest more than 10 tons in a year.
When you look at the data, 2013 and 2014 really jump out. Prior to 2013 you see relative stability. Then there’s a huge jump in 2013 (roughly doubling the prior years). Then almost nothing in 2014 (about 10% of prior years, excluding 2013).
Given the growth of companies who use Maine’s wild seaweed—both locally and nationally—this all appears really strange. But without access to the data, and without oversight to insure accurate reporting, and without complete reporting requirements, we can’t get to the center of the tootsie pop. Citizens shouldn’t have to feel their way through this degree of fog when it comes to understanding what’s happening in our oceans.