“Don't it always seem to go
That you don't know what you've got til it's gone”
Joni Mitchell’s 1970 lyrics might well apply to a crisis one rarely hears about or sees in the headlines: disappearing forests of seaweed along the Atlantic seaboard.
How important is this… really? If you value seafood, you will value
Macroalgae, or seaweed in its many American varieties as a natural resource not to be taken for granted as has happened with certain types of native fish, no longer readily available (have you checked the price per pound of fish compared to meat and poultry at your local market recently?)
In her just released 2018 book, “Seaweed Chronicles: A World at the Water’s Edge”, Maine writer Susan Hand Shetterly will open your eyes and minds to this remarkable resource, not only as a food but also as a key additive to a variety of daily use products. And, ultimately, why its dubious future is important to you.
A long-time year-round Down East resident, Shetterly writes not just about the variety, history and uses of seaweed as a food stock and extensive product ingredient. Through individual stories she portrays local resident struggles to find balance between voracious human (and other species) demand for its consumption and conservationist efforts to preserve this resource and its biome benefits.
Through thirteen chapters, she takes you through the misty and rugged Gulf of Maine world starting with the variety of seaweeds extant, their role as a life force for a variety of species, large and miniscule, and showing the interconnected relationships among these sea forests and clams, alewives (fish that support cod), young cod, eider ducks. Without assigning cause, she discusses the impact of warming waters and portrays how it impacts sea life behavior.
And later she digs into efforts by various Maine groups – individuals, small and large businesses and the government – to strike a balance among seemingly competing interests. The core issues revolve around commercial harvesting techniques that can be destructive to seaweeds but provide income versus local efforts to ensure a renewable resource.
One particularly interesting example was the shift in Japanese demand for seaweed, a huge dietary staple, due to the 2011 Fukushima nuclear accident. Alarmed Japanese consumers increased demand for clean seaweed from the US market (both coasts) driving a short-term jump in harvesting. It was a boon for large international operations such as Acadian Seaplants out of Canada, operating in Maine since 2004, but more limited benefit for local American producers.
Shetterly writes: A 2016 United Nations report on world seaweed harvests…reached 26 million wild wet tons with Chile, China and Norway as largest harvesters. Top-producers of aquaculture-based seaweed are China, Indonesia and the Philippines. It is also a lucrative enterprise in Ireland (carrageenan), Iceland and France. Harvesting has been an US occupation since before the Revolutionary War.
This is no small business... but contrary to our presumptions based on American history, not a limitless resource. Too much or careless harvesting without thoughtful conservation can deplete it and result in years, if not decades, of recovery.
"Seaweed Chronicles" is an opportunity to explore an issue of personal relevance… as it unfolds, not after.
- Audio CD
- Publisher: Highbridge Co; Unabridged edition (7 August 2018)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1684416485
- ISBN-13: 978-1684416486
- Product Dimensions: 16.3 x 2.8 x 13.5 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 113 g
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