Category: Facts & findings

International Reports on the Ecological, Environmental and Business Effects of Seaweed Harvesting

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.

The Northern Irish report (ref UK)

seaweed harvesting niehs position statement

Front page

Snip from above document ref mechanical harvesting

Mechanical harvesting unsustainable

The Irish government report


from above report – signatures

international contributors


biased reports

 The Scottish government report


Front page

consequences of large scale harvesting

Details of consequences

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.

Lecture and debate on seaweed trawling – Molde Klimafestival jan 2018

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


Front page of above document

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.

This article from the BBC says that  alginate stops the body from absorbing fat and how that could possibly be useful for slimmers.

The current drug Orlistat has a remarkably impressive list of side effects.

This is a drug you would only consider(not take) if you were really desperate.

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

and further

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???

Anonymous Mail

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

This is almost like a boys club – has the Norwegian state been fooled?

Update & Overview

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.

Effects of Seaweed Harvesting on Fish and Crustaceans. Fisken og havet no 4/2013

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)

EU Promoting Ecocide

A great deal of the confusion behind science is due to  long words and complicated verbal structures.

This is confusion is often used by  industries to cover the activities they don’t want the public or politicians to know about.

These documents are from the EU, a organization called Net Algae.  The purpose of this organization is to assist seaweed harvesting, to be precise ,commercial seaweed harvesting in all its forms.

It is quite clear that this organization understands the  impact this industry is having on our ecologies.

This is from the document on their website giving an overview of the commercial harvesting activities in the many EU lands.

Filieres_12p_UK (netalgae with overview of European seaweed harvesting)

One of the first things is says is this

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. – the dupont/fmc site.

and the “signed link”

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.

Seafloor Disturbance and Polluted Sediment Redistribution

(from one of our contributors Jens Hoxmark)

It is easy to assume that because there is a serious lack of information on a subject of considerable importance that the information could be damaging to the industry concerned.

There is no serious reason to think otherwise with this present offering.

We wrote about this some time ago –

Essentially our information was that bottom trawling disturbs sediments which  re distributes dangerous substances which then enter the food chain and ultimately us

re distribution of sediments from bottom trawling

As you can see from the picture in the article the effect is massive.

We have a paper on the ocean current stopping power of Laminaria hyperborea the seaweed that is trawled on the Norwegian coast.

It is over 80% over a distance of 275 meters – the tests were done just here on the west coast of Norway

reduction of ocean currents by seaweed

It is easy to form a link between pollution and seaweed trawling, however there as yet is no scientific work we can find.

In 2012 an area just off the Lofotens was closed for fishing certain types of fish due to dioxin and pcb poisoning – researchers were unable to come to any verifiable conclusion.

Now another 2 areas have been closed Hatlebanken and sklinnnnabanken på namsdalskjysten  because of dangerously high levels of pcbs and dioxins.

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.

Scottish Seaweed Harvesting

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.

The reply was reassuring. F20140001187

Finally the Scottish government has released its policy on seaweed harvesting


scot gov seaweed harvesting

This is actually a stunning report detailing possible future harvesting as well as current harvesting, seabed strata, current status and much more, well worth a thorough read.

However in its conclusion it says this about Norwegian seaweed harvesting

To shorten this, it says the commercial trawling on the coasts of Norway and Chile are sustainable – why is up for speculation

this is the situation in chile

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.

Many Others Are Deeply Concerned…

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:

Yes, seaweed trawling does affect fish stocks.




One of the basic tenets in our society is trust.

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 honor 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.

How different is it now?

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.

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 all right, human protein.

This says how wonderful the American superfood is:

– The publicity behind seaweed has been intense, now we can report why ——-

FMC is for sale and has been bought here in Norway by Du Pont –

This is where Undark – 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 realize 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 anything.

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 don’t 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?

Effects of Seaweed Harvesting on Fish and Crustaceans. Fisken og havet no 4/2013

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.

Paper title page snippet

fh_4-2013_til_web (SBM PAPER)

 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 seems to be lacking. If a healthy dispute is actually lacking, it is crucial that other voices from outside are made heard. Our website 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.

The full paper is found in this link: kelp-harvest-impacts-summary

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.

click to enlarge

Rinde et al
. 2006 – Effekter av taretråling

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 realize, 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

seaweed harvesting niehs position statement probably the most influential paper on seaweed harvesting (produced by and for the UK government.)

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.

(written by one of our contributors)