This advertisement appeared in the Norwegian Newspaper vårtland a few days ago.
My colleagues picked it up at once – ALGINOR and yes it is about the exploitation of our Norwegian seaweed beds of Laminaria hyperborea or stor tare.
The advertisement mentions a share sale – the date of the paper is the ff21 of august 2019 – the date of the closure of the sale is the 23rd so the buyer has 2 days in which to make up his or her mind – that is just a little unusual, so we did a little internet research – first page:
The first thing is that the Norwegian environmental group Bellona is involved
We contacted them with reference to seaweed trawling many years ago – they replied that they could not comment as they had been working with fmc (the seaweed trawling company) on cultivation projects.
This is the wiki article on the leader of Bellona Fredrik Hauge.
In an nrk article he mentioned that it was much better working from the inside than fom the outside as he has been in the past.
it says that Bellona has adopted a very pragmatic method of working in the environmental protectionism world – they work with rather than against the companies concerned – fact is this may probably be the best way of solving many of these serious environmental issues but by supporting the proposed share sale it is not working for the environment but trying to sponsor its destruction.
This is Bellonas part of the Alginor website
Yes it says that Bellona will be working with the seaweed harvesting companies to try to limit the ecological damage it does
Hey, wait a bit “with a common goal of a sustainable kelp harvesting industry”
That implies that it is not so now because if it was they would not need to “assist”
We know that Bellona employs many budding marine biologists so they would know what effect it is having on our marine ecosystems and yet it is ignoring this because every independent research paper we have read clearly shows the effect on the environment this industry is having.
Further we are not alone having been joined by large groups in Scotland and Ireland who are in agreement over this issue.
This has also been under the spotlight of such personages as Greta Thunberg and David Attenborough
Another interesting little addition to the front page of the Algea website is the EU sponsorship
They have been given 1.9 million euros so far (for the destruction of our marine habitats???)
Following the various leads it is based on a organization called Horizon 2020 – they say they have 7 billion euros to give out to innovative and important projects
Our current information concerning the harvesting of Laminaria hyperborea on the Norwegian coast is that the industry is finding it difficult (in spite of frequent statements on the good health of Norwegian seaweed) to find enough raw material – further we know that FMC/DUPONT imports seaweed from Chile and other south American lands (Peru was omitted from that list after we pointed out that it banned all forms of seaweed harvesting in 2008 – but note only omitted ) their seaweed beds must also be having problems.
Many councils here after more reports, decided to change the harvesting frequencies from 4 years to 8 years – that would seriously affect the industry too, so investment would seem a little strange at this moment.
We are trying to contact the EU concerning this and will post as soon as we have a reply.
Since we started this campaign we have always wondered if we were right?
Frankly its a heavy burden, reading endless papers which all say pretty much the same – clearly showing that seaweed trawling is having devastating effects on the wildlife and environment – while nearly all the environmental organizations say nothing.
Further still the state organs responsible for our wellbeing and the state of our environment and ecology must know but say nothing.
The big question being “are we right”?
Here is confirmation of the biggest kind possible .
David Attenborough has written an article published in the Times newspaper in the UK clearly stating the state is ignoring science and COMMON SENSE concerning seaweed trawling.
This article was sent to us by our colleagues in Scotland fighting the introduction of seaweed trawling there.
here is a link to David Attenborough’s organization and the article concerned
We have already sent a link to the Norwegian news service NRK.
we hope and trust that the voice of such a important person in all our lives will not be ignored, especially by the Norwegian state.
If the validity of the seaweed trawling industry is called into question – so will the validity of those marine biologists and organizations that support the industry – this is a serious matter indeed as it calls into question the world of very many individuals who are in a position of power.
The pollution and destruction of our world is caused by the very companies involved – their activities can only be described as ecocide –
The suffering caused by the illnesses inflicted on us by the release of chemicals into our nature is something that these big companies never have to pay for. Only those individuals and the states concerned.
It is time the protection they have is stripped away and their actions treated just like any other crime, and they like any criminal. This should also apply to those who protect and nurture those individuals and industry.
Here in Norway laws are changed to facilitate the industry and great care is taken to obscure the long term effects from the media though this information is available in scientific papers which have a very low readership.
Having studied and filmed the industry in many years this information is easy to substantiate. Further individuals operating in the industry are now concerned over its ecological impact sending us anonymous letters and information.
Many people operating in the industry are subject to threats and vandalism as many of the communities where they operate see this as the cause for economical and ecological changes.
Some very large areas of the Norwegian coast are now closed to fishing because of the spread of dioxins and pcbs. These chemicals were dumped here in the 60s and 70s in large amounts from specially adapted ships – The chemicals were from the plastics industries and were mostly solvents used for cleaning.
We have the names of some of the companies and the ships.
The barrels should have been deposited in deep waters near to fishing grounds but its possible they were dumped pretty much anywhere.
It is well known that seaweed is capable of detoxifying many chemicals and these are some of them – these chemicals would have been distributed over the years in sediment around the roots of the plants – tearing up the plants would re distribute the sediments.
The timing of the start of the problem and the start of mechanical harvesting are not incongruent –
We can find no studies of the spread of sediments from seaweed dredging – nor the release of any chemicals in those sediments but we do know that laminaria hyper cuts the effect of wave energy by as much as 80% (mork)
Sea water caries a great deal of sediments – they would be effected by the forests.
The plan to harvest using the comb dragged by a powerful trawler is based on the idea that the Norwegian methods are ecologically and environmentally sound.
The Norwegian industry breaks several Norwegian laws – special permission had to be obtained:
State permissions for seaweed trawling
A great deal of research has not been undertaken – possibly because the results would have a negative effect on the industry.
Nearly all land based plants have some form of chemical defense – this is also true of marine plants though of course seaweeds are not the same as land based plants in fact they are not plants at all, but for the purposed of this document it is preferable to use that name.
Some marine plants have powerful toxins but it appears that no or very little research has been undertaken on laminaria . There is evidence to suggest that the plants do communicate with each other – thus a herbivores mechanical action will trigger the release of protective chemicals which will also be released by plants in the area unaffected by the predator.
This could have the effect of preventing the re colonization of an area by sensitive species as evinced by reliable reports ref re colonization taking between 7 to 9 years long after the Laminaria hyp plants have regenerated to a harvestable size.
The proposed harvesting method would mean that those species would be denied access to the forests on a nearly permanent basis thus producing a profound change in the ecology of the seaweed forests.
Here in Norway nearly the entire coast is harvested – information on this is easily available.
There are serious changes in bird populations, and fish migrations and conditions.
If the above information is correct then it would make no difference on the amounts harvested as the entire coast would ring like a bell.
To reiterate the point – there is no research we can find directly relating to this issue but there are indications that this may be correct.
To be secure a serious study of this issue needs to be undertaken.
There are also concerns over the study undertaken by Lennert Balk ref Mass die off from Thiamine deficiency syndrome – it is possible this is linked to the presence of thiaminase or anuorase as it was formerly known, in prey fish species such as herring and anchovies, there seems to have been little or no research into this – it is known that one source of the enzyme is algae on the test of sea urchins – there must be many other sources, a change in the ecology, especially of herbivorous browsers could lead to a change in the presence of the enzyme
We have video of birds exhibiting the symptoms Balc describes.
A study into the feasibility of commercial seaweed harvesting undertaken by the Irish Government states that one cannot rely on Norwegian reports as many studies were undertaken to support the industry and are thus biased.
If a marine biologist were to produce a negative report on seaweed dredging he would have far more to loose in terms of career possibilities than he would have to gain – he would also have to be very careful over his results.
There are many such independent reports.
The Irish study is signed by 45 international researchers – 8 from Norway.
The report goes on to say that commercial dredging would alter the seabed permanently or until the action ceased. Here is the Irish report.
There are many reports in Norway about the disappearance of seaweed beds – officially it is from Global warming – but laminaria grows as far down as Portugal – we have videos of seaweed beds where the plants look sick – quite some time after harvesting – some of the films produced by Miljøvernforbund a major Norwegian environmental campaign group – show large areas of dead and decaying plants still anchored to the substrate.
This article is from 2005 and shows that it is serious cause for concern – but as far as we are able to ascertain nothing has been done.
Here is a video from Miljøvernforbund a Norwegian environmental campaign group showing the condition of the seaweed beds in one area some years after the last trawling. View from 3.2onwards.
We have a series of reports from Bodvin, Moi and Steen saying they believe there is little or no environmental or ecological effect from taretråling – the first page details that while the report has the Norwegian havsforsknings institut name on the front page it was paid for by FMC the (former) seaweed trawling company, this detail lies on the second page.
This is probably one of the reports detailed in the Irish feasibility study.
Here is our report on the paper – written by one of our contributors.
We have a clear video of one of the researchers (Bodvin) at the seaweed conference in Trondheim clearly upset over the activities of a firm of commercial seaweed harvesters (Algea, Trond Kjønno) who he considered had not done enough research on its environmental impact – their activity involved clipping the weed, not tearing up the weed roots and all.
While the commercial dredging for maerl may have been called into doubt by the ospar agreement it seems that seaweed trawling is not considered an issue – it is well known that fmc is the source of much funding in research and infrastructure for marine research organizations. Does this have an effect on the results?
In fact the EU has donated over 400,000 euros for the furtherance of the Irish seaweed harvesting industry
One of the researchers involved with the paper much used by the industry (Bodvin, Steen and Moi) Publicly stated at the Conference in Trondheim that seaweed trawling has nothing to do with sea urchin predation – there is serious information to say that it does.
It is clear that from the reports already in public domain that mechanical harvesting is not sustainable, that mass seaweed harvesting brings about profound change in the ecology and environment – that official bodies are unaware of the papers mentioned above concerning the adverse effects of this industry are unlikely.
It is clear that if this information was sufficiently publicized then OSPAR, major UK environmental services, the norwegian havsforskningsinstitut and the EU would be embarrassed to say the least.
To comments on the sea document
Proposal for trawling of seaweed on the west coast of Scotland.
Sustainable benefit – superficially reading research papers on the biotech industry and seaweed there seems to be a major gain from supporting this industry – all the right buttons are being pressed however on closer reading this is not quite the case,
One product carrageenan has a history of causing digestive and other problems – how can this be then it is of major importance in this type of medicine
Alginates have been hailed as a major product in weight reduction. It does this by stopping the production of an enzyme which enables the body to absorb fat – if this is widespread in everyday foods then everybody would have a reduction in the bodies ability from absorbing fat – little or no research seems to have been done on the long term effects – does the regular ingestion of alginate seriously affect the production of this enzyme, we know that people who stop using milk products stop producing the enzyme that converts milk to a usable food.
MBL has now obtained investment partners willing to fund this new startup – would they be fmc or dupont? Both are or have been involved with the Norwegian alginate industry – both have dismal records concerning the environment and peoples rights. Both have received world record fines for pollution and other criminal activities including fmc- direct fraud.
Dependent on this investment is raw material source.
30,000 tons will be required per year for 5 years.
Because only 0.15% is used 99% will be undisturbed.
This is not true as vastly more is left on the sea floor than is harvested – the effects of harvesting on defense chemicals seems to have been unresearched – if correct then the effect of harvesting anywhere will be felt over large areas.
Such harvesting has been sustainable in Norway, France and Iceland – again this is simply not true especially of you read the Scottish, Irish and Northern Ireland papers.
Strategic environmental assessment showed that harvesting could be sustainable subject to monitoring – i would like to see the assessment?
Possibly 32 full time jobs – possibly a further 10 – possibilities are not definite.
If the work goes ahead then the employment will be short lived anyway,
The vessels are to be fitted with gps tracking.
Here in Norway the vessels are fitted with tracking – we have observed the tracking right into proscribed areas with no action taken by the authorities and action by us blocked.
We managed 1 prosecution but it took 2 years and a great deal of work from us.
There has also been another prosecution which was heavily defended by a team of lawyers on the island of Runde – they lost the case. The last 2 were prior to ais tracking.
The sled is trawled through the beds at a height of .5 metres. The distance between prongs ensures on, my mature plants are removed.
There is little work on the efficiency of the sleds – how much do they take up, how much is left on the sea floor, how much is crushed and destroyed?
It is not possible to «float» a sled of this type at a continuous height of .5 metres above the sea floor.
Discrepancies in the density of the weed and changes in the topography will cause the sled to bounce –
This statement denies that the sled will be at a continuous .5 metres above the sea floor.
Suggested harvesting efficiencies of 40% to 70% – does this figure mean that between 60 and 30% is destroyed and left behind?? It is not clear, but if this the case then 30,000 tons/year should read at least double as that would be the amount of weed destroyed however its true meaning is obscure.
Harvesting regime – new to Scotland – not new to Norway, perhaps a closer study of the Norwegian industry would be helpful – reading some of the independent research papers for instance – we can supply them
Key measures to avoid significant effects are to obtain licenses for a large enough area –
This indicates the authors are aware of significant effects – as there is no indication we can see of these effects in the proposal it would be useful to know what information they have on these significant effects.
Disposal of holdfasts.
MBL wants permission to dump the holdfasts back into the areas they were harvested from.
The implication is that they want to cut the roots of the plants off and dump these roots back into the harvested areas.
We know of no machinery capable of sorting 30,000 tons of seaweed plants a year so the roots and just the roots/holdfasts can be removed and replaced.
Seaweed harvesting of this kind in Norway requires the use of large amounts of Formalin .
A major problem for the industry is what to do with the waste from the processes involved, especially as they are blended with formalin.
Here in Norway standard procedure is to dump the waste back into the sea – this has caused considerable controversy and indeed a court case but it still occurs.
Immediately seaweed is exposed to air and the plant is damaged bacterial action begins – a by product of this is the production of hydrogen sulphide – this is extremely poisonous.
Due to its high solubility it is easily spread in water.
Many chemicals have been tried as bactericides but Formalin is the only one that fulfils all the criteria.
The EU has banned the use of formalin in all food products and in animal feeds.
In fact it has banned it altogether with any foodstuffs
Page 15 2.2.5
Pending clarification by ms lot it is understood that disposal of holdfasts will need a license.
A best environmental assessment will be necessary.
Further to the use of formalin – it is possible that one of the reasons for the dead areas we have filmed here is the production of hydrogen sulphide from the rotting plants – dumping the roots back is going to exacerbate that if it is the case. If the roots are treated with formalin then it is going to produce ecological issues.
Page 15 2.2.4
Harvesting periods – the information here is incorrect – the Norwegian harvesting cycle here at Hustadvika is every 4th year – with a provision in the law that states only a 3 year gap is required in Møre and Romsdal – we understand that in other areas the gap is longer.
Sustainable harvesting of kelp resources.
What does this mean exactly – we have clear scientific reports stating the period required for a restoration of biodiversity is between 6 to 9 years, not 5.
As this report states continual harvesting will lead to permanent change, or until the harvesting ceases
No harvesting in areas or archaeological importance.
Here in Norway we know of no such provision, divers tell us of wrecks destroyed by this harvesting method – undiscovered sites will be destroyed and unmarked wrecks wrecked permanently –
are they going to send down divers before an area is harvested?
Who is going to check?
Has the company a magnetometer
Who is going to enforce this?
MBL proposes to have seasonal restrictions that account for seasonal ecological sensitivities –
Does this mean that MBL is going to harvest in bird colonies?
Here in Møre and Romsdal the harvesters have acess to 87 bird colonies – only 32 have restrictions for the hatching and molting seasons – an estimate is that we have lost over 1/3 of our seabirds.
FMC has worked hard to discredit this paper – we have observed bitter arguments at conferences – but if it were inaccurate or not correct then what have the researchers to gain – they have everything to loose and nothing to gain by disturbing the harvesting giants.
There is no mention here of microfauna – no mention of fish species though cameras are going to be used – in Norway this has been done but it is interesting to note that the cameras have a tendency to point upwards at passing fish and so not capture the fish in the forest or lack of.
There is a serious discrepancy in species of observed fish in Norwegian reports with very little or no mention of Sygnathid species – this includes the sea horse
as well as pipe fish – they play an important role as plankton grazers and microfauna eaters in the forests.
They are very vulnerable to trawling as they are not powerful swimmers.
Marine license under the marine Scotland act.
Section 21 (1) a license is required to deposit ———–
Much more work needs to be done on the release of products of decomposition and its effects on the surrounding ecology – if the waste is covered with formalin then its effects will be serious.
Application of MS-LOT will be in accordance with national policy and guidance.
This includes a sustainable marine ecology.
Harvesting ion Norway using this method has been underway for over 60 years – large areas are not not harvested – there are press reports of the disappearance of large areas of seaweed – the state says it is due to global warming – the UK is further south with warmer waters – is your seaweed disappearing?
Using sound science responsibly – this requires taking into account negative reports on the effects of mechanical seaweed harvesting – independent reports
The Scottish government has produced such a report as have the Irish and Northern Irish governments.
In this case we know of only one positive report and that was sponsored financially by the harvesting company – several of the researchers involved have made misleading statements, or statements that are contrary to their report that indicates that there is little or no harm from seaweed trawling.
Ensuring that marine resources are used in a sustainable way.
This is not sustainable – and will lead to a very short term gain.
Enable move to a low carbon economy.
The amount of co2 bound up in Laminaria hyperborea is large to say the least.
An area of about 1500 sq km was destroyed by sea urchin predation from the 70s onwards – it is estimated that the area would have bound up over 150 million tons of co2 in that period if it was covered by lam hyp.
This area has now grown back and is currently being harvested.
This report SEA has very little to say about the negative effects of seaweed trawling – we urge the authorities to investigate them thoroughly.
The press from the industry to enable harvesting over the entire uk is large and will continue until the state of the seas is acknowledged, then harvesting in Norway and other countries will be called into question.
The crime of ecocide is being forwarded as a part of our future – it is clear that if it becomes international law then seaweed trawling will be on the agenda.
In our journey through the mass of reports and papers on seaweed and seaweed harvesting there are several reports that stand out.
These reports are vital because they are not scientific journals, they are not produced from any point of view other than that of seaweed harvesting as an industry and business.
In other words if you want to become involved in harvesting seaweed commercially these are the papers to read as they are from impeccable sources and are not in any way partisan other than to provide information for the industry
The three reports in this article are produced by the Irish department of the environment, the Northern Irish heritage service and the Scottish governments respectively.
We have reported on these articles before but separately.
They all say the same thing ultimately – commercial mechanized seaweed harvesting is not sustainable.
sustainable commercial harvesting Norway and Chile
These 3 reports clearly state that Mechanical commercial seaweed harvesting is not sustainable – though the last snip says that it is sustainable in Chile and Norway but not anywhere else – could this be because those governments could not be seen as allowing anything to occur in their territory which is not sustainable.
The Chilean coast is suffering from massive environmental problems – the Norwegian coast is undergoing massive changes to the ecology, large areas are now closed to fisheries – both countries have largely uncontrolled industrial fish farming.
The first lecture in the debate was by Harald Bredahl from Fmc/dupont the company doing the seaweed trawling.
The first part of the lecture was spent trying to persuade us that the amount harvested is negligible – maybe, but we can see the consequences – it is as if the entire harvesting felt is affected – like an infection that spreads. In fact there seems to be little or no research as to why this is, there is however research on the effects – a paper by Svein-Håkon Lorentsen (and others) mentioned on this site several times
Clearly details the reduction of over 90% in the first year of the most important foraging fish in the harvested area – one can also safely assume that the area concerned was also “barely touched” by the trawlers.
Harald told us that the trawlers needed such a large area to trawl (nearly the entire coast) because the sea floor was so uneven that it was impossible to harvest in most areas. Here in the last few weeks we’ve had anonymous mail from apparently within the industry – it says that the areas currently being harvested are being harvested in such a way that the plants are not able to mature thus they are not being removed cleanly from the sea floor leaving most dying and rotting – if so little is being harvested surely this cannot be a problem unless one or the other piece of information is incorrect.
Harald also used the paper produced by Bodvin, Moi and Steen as evidence that there is no environmental or ecological damage from seaweed trawling.
Here FMC is using the reputation of the havsforskningsinstitut to support the industry – when we have 3 governmental seaweed harvesting studies from the UK, Scotland and Ireland all saying that mechanical seaweed harvesting is unsustainable, it throws that reputation into question, especially when the front page of the paper proudly announces that Fmc has contributed financially.
One of our contributors wrote the report. This was apparently too much for the skipper of the research vessel used for the research which tried to ram our fishing boat a few weeks after the report was written (someone obviously reads our reports)
We feel strongly that this is not evidence on the harmless nature of seaweed trawling but is in fact a serious attempt to whitewash the industry.
Later in Harald Bredahls lecture the importance of the medicinal side of the seaweed industry was mentioned in some detail.
Most of the miraculous cures we noticed were in the research phase – in fact nearly all were.
The industry is concentrating on the current fad for healthy alternatives, health foods and medicines derived from natural ingredients.
First of all if seaweed derivatives are so vital for our health then it is indeed a precious commodity – using massive trawlers to scrape the seaweed beds is not a clever way of harvesting such a precious resource, especially as it destroys far more than it lands. We have reports of receding seaweed all over our coast – clearly the state should stop this and find harvesting methods that are far more ecological and sensitive.
But then perhaps this is all a bluff?
The main product from the 200,000 tons or so of seaweed harvested on our coasts is alginate. This is used in food preparations and medicines – fillers mostly in the latter.
However because the industry is so keen to publicize this products worth there is considerable research in universities and other bodies, i.e. they are trying to convince the public that we need to keep the industry going.
We know that the sister product Carrageenan has some serious health issues – mainly digestive – but there is no serious evidence of any problems with alginate – until now.
The question in our minds is – are these side effects from the drug or from blocking the bodies ability to absorb fat. If it is from the latter then there are serious health issues indeed from alginate – however that is speculation.
Unfortunately Alginate seems to be in most manufactured foods – from coatings on fresh fish, to the outside of salty biscuits- you simply cannot avoid it – it is everywhere – however the body needs fat to survive – so if some of us need less fat and we get this from our current food some of us don’t then there are possible health issues.
Here is a report on carageenan
In fact we know that seaweed can contain all kinds of pollutants – from pcbs to heavy metals such as mercury and worse.
Do we need this industry – especially as it is causing so much damage to our wildlife???
Seaweed trawling is a very emotive issue – there are a number of conflicts concerning individuals, communities and how the seaweed trawling is seen by those who feel it is destroying their fishing, or nature or even ecosystem.
When you are apparently contacted from within the system there are a number of possibilities – the worst of which is that we (the reader) is being played.
The best though (however unhappy) is that the trawler skippers are deeply concerned about the environmental damage their industry is causing and wish to show that they care just like any other good Norwegian. After all most of them are fishermen or fish and are interested in nature and wildlife.
We also hear that they are experiencing difficulties in small towns and villages when they become known – there have even been fights in public.
The anonymous phone call I received included a great deal of inside information, I have no doubt it was genuine and posted the basics on our Facebook site, both in Norwegian and English – the interest was phenomenal with over 200 engagements in less than 2 hours.
The call drew attention to the way the new owners are treating the skippers and their catch – they say they are being driven to harvest in a way which is causing severe damage to the ecosystem (we already know that) they are harvesting in areas they know are not mature enough to be harvested so the plants are simply destroyed. One of the skippers is using illegal documents and so on –
The letter is quite long and again points out the same information.
Rather than take out the relevant facts we’ve decided to simply publish the entire documents for our readers – yes they are in Norwegian so some will have problems reading them.
Double click to read.
These two sides are a kind of introduction and explain why the letters are being sent and what is behind them – as previously mentioned it is gratifying to be “verified” from a completely different angle.
These last 2 sides are with fuller information and have been sent to various agencies.
Double click to read.
We have reported the trawlers to the Norwegian maritime agency for being overloaded – apparently our information and videos were taken very seriously until FMC paid a visit – then our videos were no longer of good enough quality (we have that on tape)
As for working 24 hours – we have for the first time observed the trawlers working at night here – a few weeks ago (January) .
We feel uncomfortable using unverified information however we feel it is important to support anyone brave enough to stand up with the truth about what is happening on our coasts.
It is interesting to note that largely European companies pay lip service to concerns about the environment – some do more – but American companies seem to believe that the environment/nature is just a resource to be used – and if those who own the resource are too stupid to utilize it they will – and they do – worldwide.
How can they get away with this?
Recently Norway focused its attention on investments in the USA from the Oil fund – changing its previous interest in Europe. This has currently led to Equinor being heavily involved with American interests and in taking over sensitive environmental industries or parts of – due to lack of investment, or lack of serious care there have been serious incidents with some of those industries leading to major pollution incidents
Much of what we know about the sea we get from the press.
We are told frequently that our seas are in trouble.
The news seems just to get worse.
Plastic pollution, whales dying – large number of sea animals dead.
There are some very major players whose interests lie in making sure that the real state of our seas is kept hidden because if it was made public it would seriously jeopardize their interests.
Some years ago our little group started following commercial seaweed harvesting and associated businesses because here on the west coast of Norway we constantly see the seaweed trawlers greedily grubbing out the seaweed beds we know harbor most of the animal species that make up our marine ecology.
Officially the state says there is so much seaweed that it is impossible to cause any harm
The industry in Norway relies on regrowth – in fact we have exact figures on this.
They are extraordinary.
It has been calculated that the 170,000 tons the industry reportedly dredges up per year, if the regrowth was as stated then it would only require only 85 square kilometers, however the industry uses nearly the entire coast. We can only conclude that this is because the plants do not grow back as they should, In fact we have reports that say in many places where trawling has occurred there is no seaweed , it has disappeared. This is further supported by the vast distances traveled by the cargo ships bringing the seaweed to the processing plant at Haugesund from as far afield as the Lofoten islands.
In other words the industry itself is based on misinformation.
The industry is clouded by misinformation – the only information we can rely on is from signed scientific documents not sponsored by the industry, because the industry does sponsor reports and they are biased.
Bearing all this in mind where does one find reliable reports? The UK, the Scottish Governments and the Irish state have all sponsored well documented, signed reports. The last one bears the signatures of 45 international scientists – 7 from Norway.
They all say the same thing – mechanical harvesting of seaweed is not sustainable. Bear in mind that these reports have been produced in support of the industry. So why is it allowed on the Norwegian coast?
This is where the waters get very murky. There is no easy answer – just speculation. However the state protects this industry fiercely even though it is clearly causing major ecological changes. It is happy to change laws and infringe ancient rights, even interfere with investigations.
Perhaps the answers may be found in the companies running the operations.
Initially the company concerned was a Norwegian company called Protomare, they were taken over by a company, part of the massive FMC corporation. Initially called FMC Biopolymer, later FMC health and efficiency. They are interesting because some of the companies FMC own have been involved with massive business scandals, massive environmental pollution and even direct fraud, the last from their military division and against the us state. One of the chemicals they produce – carborofan or furadan is responsible for destroying most of Africa’s large predators – it is also responsible for the mass destruction of bird populations.
Their business interests include the production of Lithium – this is a fascinating subject as the destruction of the ecology and environment surrounding the mining in the Atacama – Peru, Bolivia etc. is largely ignored by journalists.
We have fought a long campaign against the company here on the Norwegian coast.
But we have had some strange results. These results reveal a great deal about the power of the state and how it is used by companies and corporations
We started by following the boundaries the trawlers were supposed to follow – in the first few days we filmed a trawler harvesting illegally – we reported it with video and were interviewed by the fiskeriedirektoratet which is the regulating body. Yes we were told – they were definitely fishing illegally. Over the next few months we were visited – twice by police asking if we saw what we saw – both times we told them we saw nothing, but our cameras saw everything.
So we waited for the results of the prosecution – after 2 years we decided to follow this up and were granted permission. By this time we were a bit unhappy so we decided to record the conversation. The Norwegian state apparently says that a public servant can be recorded without his knowledge because as representatives of the state they can only repeat and follow state policy which is public.
The policeman we spoke to told us that the trawler skippers relied on paper charts and the only one they had showing the boundaries was in the office at the seaweed depot. Further the magnetic North pole had shifted tens of kilometers in the last few years so they had no idea of where they were.
As our evidence relied on the position of marker poles, there was no high technology involved – simply on one side they were allowed, on the other, not, they were on the wrong side.
We presented this information to very senior members of Fiskeriedirektoratet – the case went through in 2 weeks and resulted in a small fine and mention in the newspapers.
A few weeks later a colleague started a similar case. As a highly qualified skipper he based his observations on land marks. The resulting case had a number of lawyers flown in to the small court room by FMC. They lost the case and the small fine was paid.
FMC had for a long time been pressed to have installed tracking so positioning could be proved or not as the case many be. So after a few years the boats were fitted with ais trackers but the tracking was ordered so that only the fiskeriedirektoratet had full access. Shortly after this we received reports of seaweed trawlers operating at night in forbidden zones. We were even called out to one such event. Yes there was a large boat in the stated place going backwards and forwards, just as a seaweed trawler would. No navigation lights, just the searchlight on the roof. We filmed the boat but could not identify it, but they all have different configurations of searchlights. Fact is the boat was operating illegally without the lights – a serious offence. About half way through our observations a large fishing vessel passed the boat within a hundred meters, we later learnt the name of this vessel, but the fiskeriedirektoratet refused to follow this up.
As most of the boats were loaded up to and over the roofs by their seaweed catch we decided to investigate how much they were allowed to load. W e went to the maritime agency responsible for the safety of ships at sea.
Yes we were told they seemed to be definitely overloaded, and have no official loading marks. The ones we could see were well under water.
We saw in the press that there had been a prosecution for overloading.
All of a sudden every boat we saw was loaded up to the top of the storage hold and no more.
Then they were overloaded again.
We contacted Sjøfartsdirektoratet again and were told that they had a visit from FMC, and as a result they were to leave the boats alone. We sent them a recording we had of one of their men telling us how seriously they take this issue. We also recorded them telling us that they could no longer see the names of the boats or details of the FMC boats in the videos we sent them. We were impressed.
We keep an eye on the internet and the production of scientific reports especially those concerned with seaweed trawling, we also produce videos on this matter.
It is far too easy to be taken with the idea that everything proves your case – with this in mind we ask our collaborators to double check our work from time to time, or to write their own for our website.
There was an announcement that there was a new report from the havsforskningsinstitut that said there were no ecological problems from taretråling, so we investigated.
One of the lead authors was Torjan Bodvin. We found a film of him on the internet on the home site of the HI on YouTube. There he said that the HI was going to research taretråling to see if there were any effects and how long they would last if there were any. The film was dated 2014. We searched our archives and found a clip of him at a conference in 2012 telling Trond Kjønno a director for Algea – a firm that also does seaweed harvesting, but a different type – that their lack of research into the effects of their industry could have serious environmental consequences. Most of the research papers we have on the effects of tt are from well before 2010 – the immediate effects have been well researched.
The paper was fascinating, it followed all the protocols – the statistics and graphs were fine examples of the craft – on the first page of the report is proudly announced the it was sponsored by FMC the taretråling company. Unfortunately there were a serious number of discrepancies – it seemed that the area concerned had already been trawled (so how could the research be objective) – there are over 250 species of animals regularly found in the forests – the report was on less than 30. Of the 12 or so species of fish mentioned the vast majority were pelagic, that is they move around – they can be found anywhere. The papers authors Bodvin, Steen and Moi mentioned that they probably did not have enough data to do a reliable report but felt that the effects of the trawling were little to negligible.
One of our collaborators wrote a report on this on our website, it was not kind.
The research had been done north of Trondheim and used a ship called Fangst owned by a man called Adolf Fanghol from Midsund. You can see the ship quite clearly in the video Bodvin made for the HI.
Some months after the report we were using our fishing boat outside Hustadvika when a blue fishing boat suddenly changed course and steered straight for us. As we were using a go pro and it was on at the time we got a very clear video – It was Fangst.
Fortunately we were able to start the motor and run.
The video shows clearly the boat cutting over our course. If we had not moved it would have at the worst sunk our boat. At the best caused severe damage
We reported the event to the Sjøfarts direktoratet who gave us a case number – and to the police but they did not respond even though we sent them the video and communicated by phone. The Sjøfarts told us they took the case very seriously indeed.
Our researchers from the uk told us that they had noticed that FMC was moving out of seaweed harvesting and that Dupont was now taking over.
For us Dupont is fascinating because they produce a chemical called polytetrafleuroethyline ptfe for short. To make this chemical they need another chemical called PFOA – at the plant where most of this is made several pregnant women gave birth to deformed children – this chemical is carcinogenic and mutagenic. Turns out that something like over 90% of all Americans have this in their bodies. Another name for PTFE is TEFLON.
We did some research into Teflon some years ago and found much to our surprise that while there had been any number of articles on the matter no press article we found mentioned another substance which is given off by Teflon when it is overheated it is called perfleuroisobutene or PFIB for short. This chemical is so dangerous that it is actually in section 2 of the chemical weapons register. We did some further research on a website called H2G2 and contacted a man who said he was the senior chemist at the plant producing the substance in the UK. He poo-pooed the danger and told us that it was negligible because there was simply not enough on a frying pan to make anyone seriously sick. In fact he even told us that the eu sent an armored convoy once a year to pick up the PFIB they had produced to take it to a factory for destruction. We also contacted an old friend who had worked at the uk chemical and biological weapons organization at Porton Down. He told us a colleague had nearly died from inhaling the gas when ptfe had come in contact with some red hot glass. He had a myocardial infraction in less than 3 minutes of the incident we were told. Information on the internet supports this with reports of several deaths. It is interesting to note that PTFE is used in ski wax preparations and that many people become very ill from this as they have to use a hot iron.
Apparently the Norwegian government is looking into the cause.
So Dupont have now taken over the TT industry on the Norwegian coast. A quick internet search reveals some startling facts – yes there are some very hot environmental cases – yes there are some very major incidents and last but by no means least the family that still owns the corporation Dupont is utterly fascinating.
One of the senior members shot and killed a Gardner working for him – he received 30 years in jail and died there. Another senior member hired a hit man to kill someone he disliked – he is still in jail – another member was caught and sentenced for interfering with his children – however the judge decided to let him free as he would doubtlessly have a hard time in prison.
It seems strange to us that the Norwegian state allows this industry to proceed as the evidence is very clear. It is even more surprising that the state allows corporations with such dismal records to have such power on our coast. The state cannot be unaware of the problems associated with the industry and its possible long term effects which are beginning to be felt now if the articles in the Fisheries newspaper are anything to go by.
The last matter reinforced by serious complaints and meetings with over 20 councils up and down the coast. The state simply says that they own the rights to the seaweed forest and that’s it.
There is also an organization run and owned by the EU called Netalgae.
Its job is to promote all forms of Seaweed harvesting. Initially it started up by researching the various countries involved and produced well researched and reasonably accurate reports. We have used some of their maps in our videos. We started a dialogue with them and started asking questions – the person we spoke to said she would have to consult with their expert on the matter of ecological damage – she went further to say that it would simply not be allowed if there were any ecological problems. They never replied to our last question which was did they know of any negative environmental or ecological consequences. A little quote from their website “in countries where laminaria is harvested with mechanical equipment scientists appear to be concerned with equipment’s impact on species and also on the surrounding ecosystem” The operative word is “APPEARS” from their site it is quite clear that is far more than appears, they know.
In 2017 we noticed that there was an addition to their website – a new document. It was called “Problematic”.
It used very diffuse and obtuse language but what it said was that if any organization wanted to start seaweed harvesting they had a team who could help overcome any environmental or local governmental objections. The page also went to a link that stated they had a budget of over 1 MILLION EUROS for this.
– the page has since disappeared.
All in all it appears our marine environment is being ruthlessly exploited by massive corporations, protected by governments prepared to do virtually anything to protect the industry. There is serious information showing clearly the destructive effects on our ecology and environment, but there is far worse to come.
Some years ago serious tt was begun above trondheim after it was found that some of the seaweed beds had grown back after many years of desert like conditions caused by sea urchin predation. It is well known that clearing the plants can open up the area for sea urchin predation – that it can take many years for the forests to re-establish themselves. About 2010 the first reports of massive pcb and dioxin pollution up to and including the lofoten islands appeared – the Hi and government had no idea why they said , but fishing grounds were closed and the catching of several species banned.
There is a very clear report produced by a researcher called Mork – in fact he did his work here at Hustadvika just off the island of Kvitholm. He said that over 280 meters the effect of marine currents are reduced by over 80%. When you pull up a seaweed plant it produces a massive plume of sediment in the water. Yes the plants would act as a filter for any particulate matter in the water. We have a great deal of research papers and articles mentioning how effective the plants are at removing chemicals from the sea. 480 tons of Nitrogen per 20 sq km – removing chemicals such as tnt 5 times faster than land based plants, other pollutants such as mercury and organics and yet more.
In 2017 sklinnebank and Halten bank were closed for fishing of certain species because of pcb and dioxin pollution. M One of our collaborators noticed that the area was overlaid with seaweed trawling grids.
An article appeared on nrk staring that a boat called the Stella Maris employed by a Dutch plastics firm was on its way to the area mentioned to dump chemicals used in the production of plastics – in fact some 600 tons. This was in the early 1971. The ship was turned back but it is clear that many thousands of tons had been dumped earlier, how much or for how long is unknown but some of the names of the companies concerned are known FosfatBolag ab from Sweden being one – another plastindustribedriften Zoutchemie Botlek in Rotterdam
Apparently many other boats had made the same trip.
Could it be possible that it had caused the release of these chemicals? We can find no research on sediments from seaweed trawling.
In fact there seems to be some very serious gaps in the research on the plants – hinted at by articles appearing now and again in the press. It is possible that the plants have chemical defenses which are triggered by tt. Land based plants have serious defenses, some strong enough to kill elephants. We do have papers that show seaweed plants can communicate – therefore it is possible that the seaweed forests on the Norwegian coast are ringing like a series of bells especially as each harvesting zone is trawled for a year– that the production of defense chemicals is changing the entire ecology of our coastline, but again as stated – no research available. It is inconceivable to think that the companies involved are unaware, they would see the results as would their skippers and employees.
There are some profound changes however in for instance the mackerel shoals. Some years ago the shoals were massive. Now they have been seriously reduced with young mackerel being found affected by lack of food. One trawler with a quota of nearly 50 tons only managed to catch 800 kg the whole year. If prey animals were no longer able to hide in the forests that would be logical.
As the plants remove pollutants on a large scale – it is logical to assume that if the seaweed beds are damaged this will no longer happen. There is already a Norwegian government watchdog dedicated to harmful algal blooms.
The Blooms or Hab’s are caused by certain types of plankton releasing serious neruochemical toxins when under stress. Some are extremely poisonous, most commonly they are taken in by shellfish and end up in the human food chain – others can become airborne and cause severe respiratory distress as well as streaming of the eyes – even death. An incident on the British coast this year led to over 150 people being seriously affected. The daily papers printed articles on this being caused by habs but the bbc persisted in the belief that it was caused by chemicals leaking from a ship or factory. The USA is currently massively plagued by habs – personal anecdotes tell of a permanent hab in Florida which means that residents suffer serious effects if the wind comes from a certain direction.
In overview it is clear that Harvesting of seaweed disturbs the marine environment in any form. It is repeatedly stated that Mechanical harvesting is not sustainable in any form by papers from Impeccable sources from at least 3 governments. Marine seaweed removes large amounts of pollutants. As our seas are in serious decline allowing this industry to continue is a danger to us all especially as there are vast gaps in our understanding of the forests function and connection with other Sealife.
The seaweed trawling industry in Norway is led by companies that are part of corporations that have massive fines for ecological and environmental criminal offences. There is a large disparity between signed scientific papers and reports produced by and for the industry. Lastly but by no means least, it is possible that the industry is breaking the law on the protection of the environment in many countries including the EU but is protected by powerful interests connected to those countries, in effect breaking their own laws.
(Main article photo photographer: Peter Southwood)
Essentially – it is that seaweed is a keystone species on which a great deal of nature and wildlife depend, and that some countries are concerned enough to protect their marine forests.
Further – it says in the next paragraph how concerned marine biologists are with the damage the seaweed harvesting industry is inflicting on the environment – this is a little disturbing in itself as it plays down the damage caused – especially as it is clearly documented in many papers, they should be very aware of these major papers.
Here is a document entitled projects, produced by Net Algae – it says it thinks seaweed harvesting in all its forms is a very undervalued business and will help any company or organization wanting to pursue commercial harvesting.
Further it says it can help overcome any environmental or local governmental objections
Yes it says first of all that it wants to bring together environmentalists and policymakers (businesses) , but the big question is why bother, if their stated aim is to harvest under any circumstances as they well know the environmental consequences. Perhaps they hope to impress the environmentalists of the importance of modern economics?
Here is the front page of the document concerned
It uses incredibly obtuse and dense language – as such it can be interpreted in several ways – however we think we have the gist of it.
Frankly when you consider the budget of over 1 million euros to encourage the scraping and destruction of marine habitats over a massive area the eu seems to be breaking its own laws on natural resources.
we wrote to them asking if they knew of any negative consequences of seaweed harvesting, they did not reply –
Even state documents from the UK, Ireland and Scotland on the feasibility of seaweed harvesting – that is documents promoting the industry, say that commercial mechanical harvesting is not sustainable – the Irish paper is signed by 45 international marine biologists and other scientists
Here is a little snip – it talks about biased reports and the sea bed becoming a desert from repeated mechanical harvesting of the type currently employed on the Norwegian coast.
Biased Norwegian reports
Ref Biased Norwegian reports – there is only one reference we can find on the internet which indicates that the damage to the sea floor and marine habitat is minimal and that is on the website of FMC biopolymer, now DU PONT – it is interesting to note that it is unsigned – that is no marine biologist has verified the statements. The site contains one link to an article which is signed but does not in any way say that harvesting is sustainable or eco friendly in fact it says the reverse.
It is possible that the EU is Breaking its own laws in promoting this industry, it has ignored all indications that it is destroying the ecosystem even though they are clearly indicated in many official state papers.
It is interesting to note that the document Netalgae-Problematic is currently unavailable – perhaps they are sensitive to criticism.
This seems to be the story – in the 70s a ship was stopped on its way to the area to dump barrels of waste from plastic production facilities in Holland – it seems that other countries were also involved.
dumping toxic waste in fishing areas.
Here is a direct quote from the article
Den nederlandske tankbåt Stella Maris er nå på vei for å dumpe 600 tonn giftige klorerte alifatiske hydrokarboner på Norske fiskefelt. Det er plastindustribedriften Zoutchemie Botlek i Rotterdam som løser sitt avfallsproblem på denne måte. Enten tirsdag eller onsdag vil Stella Maris være fremme ved dumpingområdet like vest for Haltenbanken og Sklinnabanken».
It says the Dutch ship Stella maris is on its way to dump 600 tons of chlorinated aliphatic hydrocarbons on Norwegian fishing zones, the company concerned is zoutchemie botlek in Rotterdam. Tuesday or Wednesday Stella maris will be in the dumping zone west of Hatlebanken and Sklinnabanken.
So we did some checking ref seaweed trawling areas and found that one area even had grids overlaid marking seaweed trawling zones. CURRENT.
trawling activity in polluted areas
This raises several possibilities – none of which are good news for the seaweed trawling industry.
The first is that if there are barrels or containers of these poisons in the area then dragging a 3 meter wide steel sled through the containers is going to not only open them but spread the contents far and wide, the second possibility is that the roots of the plants have captured sediments containing the poisons and by dragging the plants up the sediments are releasing the poisons into the sea.
The last would of course depend on timing – however we have found that records of seaweed trawling are surprisingly difficult to find – it is easy to assume this is deliberate.
We have anecdotal evidence that Fmc has trawled polluted plants in the past but we find it hard to believe that fmc does not test for pcbs and dioxins – as there is massive activity in the area we can only assume that the plants are relatively free of the pollutants.
This mainly refers to Sklinnebanken – however the other area Hatlebanken is too deep to trawl – so it is easy enough to assume that the area is already polluted or pollutants are being carried by currents from the trawled area and deposited there.
We know there must be massive redistribution of poisons from the plants being torn up from the sea floor – even worse the sediments being raked – we also are unaware of any work pertaining to this area of seaweed trawling – this is extremely poor planning on the part of the fiskeriedirektoratet and the havsforskningsinstitut. The research should have been done before any permissions were granted.
Another example of the state using its power to further the interest of its “Friends”.
If the area is as polluted as stated then those eating the fish are in serious danger of the most serious and deadly cancers it is possible to imagine.
Just for a moment leaving the consideration of personal suffering and death – what is the financial gain from trawling the area to the state and the counties concerned, what is the cost of providing medicines and care for cancer patients?
The long term financial loss to the state and the country far outweighs any current financial gain.
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 disappeared – the industry is currently harvesting in areas formerly severely 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 international politics when a government 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.