Some years ago i wrote to the scottish minister responsible for the possible big seaweed harvesting industry coming to the country – i urged him to look into the papers we read and not to bow to business pressure.
We have a lot of documents on Chile with emphasis on the environmental disasters currently unfolding – the situation from the reports is dire to say the least.
The Norwegian situation is delicate with seabirds declining in some areas by as much as 70% – as many bird reserves are trawled it is very likely that this has a major impact.
Some areas the plants have dissapeared – the industry is currently harvesting in areas formerly severly predated by sea urchins, we have a number of reports connecting harvesting activities with predation.
The report in its conclusion goes on to say this, apparently Commercial mechanical harvesting on the Scottish coast is environmentally unsustainable, with emphasis on wave damping and destruction of ecological habitats.
Here are the finer details
It is a fascinating glimpse into internation politics when a goverrnment report says that commercial trawling for seaweed is sustainable in other countries but not in scotland – fact is mechanical harvesting of seaweed is not sustainable wherever you are.
It is easy to feel a little bit out of mainstream environmentalism by concentrating on commercial seaweed harvesting – so few of the larger organizations seem to be aware, with most of them concentrating on the same thing the others are concentrating on though hopefully doing a better job. Perhaps this is where the state would like them to be?
So it is with relief to see the occasional article such as this one – seeming to fully support our cause
We have a state supported by us – working to uphold our best interests, many of us work for big companies that often interreact with nature and thus our future – we trust that they are trustworthy enough to honour the effort and support we put in – after all it is in their interests as well as ours.
Around the 1900s in the usa a company called undark employed mostly women painting the dials of watches with luminous paint – the company managers had special desks installed in their offices – these desks were lined with lead.
The girls hand painted the numerals – they were from all walks of life but mostly working class. They used fine paint brushes and were encouraged to lick the brushes to form a point.
After a little while the girls began getting ill, their teeth fell out, their bones began to decay – the paint they used was radium – the bosses knew, the girls died terrible deaths – the bosses got off scott free to run other businesses and lead “prosperous” lives.
IN the 1920s a chemical called polytetrafleuroethiline was developed – for short ptfe – a major producer was du pont. This chemical showed remarkable properties, non stick properties, so it was tried on cookware – du pont decided to call it teflon.
Over the years this product has remained a market leader, in fact here in Norway it is very difficult to buy any cookware not coated with teflon.
Unfortunately the product is too good to be true – the fact is this material is horribly flawed and is still on sale only because of the power of this company and its supporters.
When it reaches a critical temperature it produces a gas called perfleuroisobutene – this is actually in section 2 of the chemical weapons register – the temperature is easily reached on an ordinary stove. It does not kill because there is one enough on a frying pan, but there is more than enough to kill any pet birds in the area. This is well known – the Du pont website even mentions teflon flu but plays it down so that people are not alarmed.
There is another chemical found in Teflon – this is used by Du pont to hide the true nature of the product – this is called perfluooctanoic acid (pfoa) this is the one that gathers most publicity and can be dealt with by the company when in confrontation. http://bertie.no/?p=341
Stopptt is kept well informed by individuals both here in Norway and other countries – yes there is a serious resistance to the powerful organizations so heavily involved with our lives – this resistance is not something taken lightly – there is a process – reading articles – talking with others finding out the truths these companies are so eager to hide. Then spreading the word.
Unfortunately these companies understand that we are reliant on the system and that starts with the freedom of the press – so the press is often under serious pressure not to take these cases up.
This says the Norwegian press often censors articles which are connected with foreign business interests. Certainly applies to seaweed trawling.
Fmc the company that does the seaweed trawling on the norwegian coast has been using the press to promote its product in the last few years, regular articles on how healthy seaweed is, how good it is for us
Have you ever noticed how many of these products are pushed at us every day – here is one which is actually rather funny because the name Soylent came from a book, later a film where a kind of protein brick was given to the starving population. It was supposed to be made of plankton but our hero discovered that the seas were dead, nothing lived there – the Bricks were made of protein allright, human protein.
this says how wonderful the American superfood is
– The publicity behind seaweed has been intense, now we can report why ———
This is where Unndark – the radium Girls come in – the big companies are still doing it – we have been fooled by smoking for many years, we still are, or rather a lot of us are – what else are we being fooled about???
It is time for this to stop.
Looking at those “cool people”, smoking outside one should realise that they know the consequences – but they are not protected by the state, the state is not strong enough even though the cost of the sicknesses caused by this product is born by the state and everybody else. Recently a friend spent some time at a lung hospital here in Norway he told me that all the patients there were sick from smoking and that they went outside with their drips on trolleys to smoke.
But how can we stop this? We are only individuals and cannot make anyone do anythying.
We start with ourselves – now you know about Teflon – you throw away your Teflon pans – you tell your friends, you talk with politicians tell them how you feel.– you look around and if there is anything you dont like, you investigate – there is a growing awareness in our society – people are slowly becoming involved – not in the way the state wants but in our own way – for ourselves for our children – the state works for us – not Du pont or any other corporation but every so often it needs reminding of this.
One last little thing – here on the Norwegian coast a great many people have protested about Taretråling (seaweed trawling) they see the effects. To our knowledge at least 7 councils have complained to the state – the replies from the state contain a chilling response – “We own the rights to the seaweed forests, we can do as we please” This begs the question WHO DOES THE NORWEGIAN STATE WORK FOR?
The purpose of us writing this is to hopefully prevent the Norwegian state and local interests from using the Havforskningsinstituttet papers and its conclusions reviewed here to underpin the present, continued harvesting practice. The reader is encouraged to spread it so it will have an effect.
The research paper “Effects of seaweed harvesting on fish and crustaceans – Nord-Trøndelag 2012, Havforskningsinstituttet, Fisken og havet no 4/2013 was written by Henning Steen, Torjan Bodvin and Frithjof Moy (SBM in the following; the paper is in Norwegian, the title translated.) It was commissioned by FMC Biopolymer, which take financial interest in the positive conclusion that seaweed harvesting (taretråling) has no detrimental effect on biotopes where harvesting is taking place.
The paper’s conclusion seems to be that there is no significant difference in the observed wildlife before and after harvesting. “Apart from increasing the catchability of Goldsinny wrasse (ctenolabrus rupestris), no significant effects of kelp harvesting on fish and crab catches were observed in Nord-Trøndelag in 2012.” (From the English summary.) The wording also can be used in another situation: there is not enough data to conclude with statistical significance that there is a difference in the observed wildlife. From the paper, this also seems to be the fact. The authors point out some of the weaknesses themselves, but this may easily be overlooked. More on this below.
We also question the sampling of species used to conclude whether the harvesting has any effect. Many factors influence the presence of fish right after harvesting, for instance the fact that the harvesting itself makes much food available to e.g. predatory codfish. The sampled and counted species should be the resident ones in the kelp forest, more than the ones that move and do not depend on it so strongly. We recognize the plan to follow up with research in the years after harvesting. However, if the baseline for comparison is as weak as we find here, the later observations will probably not tell us anything about harvesting effects.
The authors seem to be unaware of the weight of the well documented claims that seaweed harvesting has strong negative effects. However, it IS sustainable to claim that research commissioned or sponsored by the largest commercial actor in the business cannot be viewed as impartial. The connection to FMC Biopolymer calls for collecting of other information.
Research calling for concern and greater caution is easily obtained, see some references at the end below.
A brief discussion of the business on a general level is offered below.
On the material collected by SBM:
To be able to make statistically significant (meaning strong) statements, one must have a considerable number of observations. Here we see 2-10 pots used for counting the number of fish and crustaceans. This is completely insufficient. The comparison baseline is essentially useless, as we see it.
It is possible to assess how many observations SBM would roughly need and how much different the numbers of organisms and species would need to be to make any statements. The species sampled among the appx 250 living in the kelp is also significant. (less than 20)This requires a combination of “plain” statistics and qualified marine biologist assessments, and we encourage SBM and other researchers to present this. In our opinion, their discussion of own results does not go deep enough. It might also have undermined the relevance of their work. This said, we do not doubt that SBM have done their considerable field work with good intentions and thorough planning. It’s just that the outcome is inconclusive, that this fact is not clearly stated, and that the conclusion in its fogginess serves their sponsor’s commercial interests. And, the amount of clear findings and conclusions by others should invoke a much clearer statement from SBM: We couldn’t find any connection, but other research indicates that there may well be effects we didn’t see.
On the findings and evidence of others
As Ibsen pointed out in his 1882 drama “An enemy of the people”, the ‘compact majority’ may be wrong. However, we believe that the diverse list of researchers referenced in the following paper should be listened to, and call for greater precaution. In this paper, 45 scientists from 7 countries are acknowledged and are understood to support the statement that Norwegian research is biased. See quote below.
Biased Norwegian reports
Eight of the 45 listed are Norwegians, and we find it encouraging that there are critical voices from within the Norwegian research community, considering that it quite small. Debate and dispute in Norwegian research fora seem to be lacking. If a healthy dispute is actually lacking, it is crucial that other voices from outside are made heard. Our website Stopptt.com is an attempt to assist them, and even be such a voice.
Below the blue-highlighted text in the snip, the authors claim that constant removal of kelp will never allow the macrofaunal community to reestablish itself fully, and that the harvesting “effectively sacrifices that area of seabed of ever becoming a natural community again” until the activity stops permanently.
So, we find it reasonable to believe that were it not for the scale of the economic interest of (a) large corporation(s), the practice would have stopped long ago.
We must also remember that it’s not in the industry’s interest to harvest a pristine kelp forest. The handling and alginate extraction is far easier with a less diverse biomass.
Now, for a wider view on the operations: a piece of simple math says that about 87 km² of seabed is enough to produce the present annual amount of seaweed, with a 5-year harvesting cycle. However, for various reasons concerning the kelp’s quality and alginate content, new areas are sought for a shorter or longer time. Assuming the harvesting returns to the former places, the kelp forest never gets a chance to recover.
We are not against sustainable harvesting, and neither are most of other researchers. With 25.000 km of Norwegian coastline one should think that some kind of harvesting regime IS sustainable. However, until a fruitful and constructive dialogue with the industry is established, we cannot see another solution than requiring FMC Biopolymer to stop its present operations. We realise, regretfully, that this is difficult to achieve until further evidence of damage to the ecobalance is on the table.
Snip from ehs paper on commercial seaweed harvesting
Pertaining this, we fear that Norway’s small research community and close bonds with FMC Biopolymer makes change of operations unlikely in the foreseeable future. We encourage critical voices to make themselves heard more clearly.
In addition to the high harvesting intensity, the operations have even been proven to be illegal at times: In 2011, seaweed harvesting was observed out of boundaries and FMC Biopolymer received a fine. Later, in 2015, they received a fine of 72.000 NOK.
Furthermore, the perhaps minor crime of overloading the trawlers is standard procedure.
Picture of overloaded trawler
The use of formalin to curb anaerobic decomposition of the seaweed at the facilities is more difficult to accept. The substance is banned in most countries for its damage to biotopes, and to human health.
wiki toxic formalin
A closing remark
From a precautious standpoint It is hoped that SBM’s research and conclusions in the referenced paper will be considered non-valid and irrelevant. Steen confirmed in 2013 that he recognizes findings that 80-90% of small fish were gone 1-2 years after harvesting [NRK article], but says more research is required. This should not prevent Havforskningsinstituttet from adopting a more cautious attitude.
If, or when there is a major ecosystems collapse, the integrity of the research community that has supported harvesting will be called into question.
Just one last little snip – this is from research done on the effects of harvesting on seabirds and was not paid for by fmc.
During our foray into the world of Seaweed trawling we’ve had a number of contacts with FMC – both personally through a chat with Ole Damm Kvilhaug who is responsible for FMCs operations here in Norway and second hand through actions my little group has undertaken.
Its almost like fencing – you work at your opponent hoping they will show a weakness.
For a while we concentrated on illegal trawling – we got one prosecution through but any more were heavily thwarted – so we tried overloaded ships – we filmed the trawlers overloaded and went to the Norwegian maritime authorities – yes they said, they do appear overloaded. We were given to believe that there had been an immediate prosecution – the ships were suddenly much less loaded – but that only lasted a little while.
So we filmed the ships again – we were told by the Sjøfartsdirektoratet that they had a visit from FMC and that the quality of our videos were now too poor to pick out any details. As i said fencing.
It brings to mind Monsanto cheerily causing devastation through court rulings against farmers and others – little realizing that it was kicking up a storm of massive proportions – one that is costing them dear.
With all this in mind there is a document produced by the eu on seaweed harvesting problems – essentially i think it says – if you want to start commercial seaweed harvesting and come across any environmental or local governmental problems we will have a team ready that can ease any problems. This is the document –
I have spoken to a number of colleagues about this and it seems to be a major ramping up of mechanical seaweed harvesting everywhere – roll on – the sooner the damage is visible the sooner it will be stopped. NEVER?
We’ll find out!
We sent Net Algae a question on their question form –
Possibly one of the most influential documents on seaweed harvesting has been produced by the Northern Ireland Environmental health services. The document is an assembly of information from every angle – with a view to enabling the industry, that is a sustainable industry. Apparently this is a very important document for the industry.
It is possible the Norwegian model is based on the idea that there is so much that it is not possible to damage or change the ecology significantly using current harvesting methods – unfortunately historically in other countries this is clearly not true. We note that the intensity of the industry here in mid Norway has considerably slackened in the last few months with greater efforts further north in unharvested areas – the information we have that the plants grow back only so many times appears to be true.
This is a snip from the EHS document
It says quite clearly that MECHANICAL HARVESTING could threaten the marine ecosystem –
Many seabird colonies on Norway’s coast are experiencing a massive downfall in population, some as much as 2/3rds – many of these colonies are in areas where seaweed trawling occurs.
The various ornithological organizations we have spoken to say this is due to the ecology being changed by a massive invasion of mackerel – it seems logical to assume that if the habitat for most of the food for the birds is removed, so will the “food ” go elsewhere. In fact the habitat does not even have to be removed for there to be a change in the ecology of the seaweed beds – the plants have a chemical defence against predation – the destruction of some of the plants by dredges would be enough to trigger this.
There is currently a great deal of interest in this matter in Bergens Fylkestingret with questions being asked about who gave permission for trawling in the bird reserves?
Here we can confirm that there is trawling in 97 bird reserves – 35 are open for trawling all the time and the others are supposedly closed during the hatching season.