Facts & findings

Comments for Scottish government ref proposed seaweed tråwling

Wild seaweed harvesting scoping report 17 July 2018


This report is of great interest as the industry has long been eying the seaweed banks in the UK (crown services):

Nitrogen phosphate uptake by cultivated seaweed

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.

Here is our report:


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.

re colonization of some species


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.

kelp harvest impacts summary

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


The industry is jealous about protecting its products – there appears to be little or no information on the net over seriously adverse effects from ingesting alginate, but it is there if one looks.

One product Gaviscon is a major aid to digestive issues and has been lauded as a major use for alginates as medicine – here are some of the side effects of Gaviscon


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.

Page 8

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.

Though the Scottish paper says this

here is our report on the 3 papers


Strategic environmental assessment showed that harvesting could be sustainable subject to monitoring – i would like to see the assessment?

Page 10

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.

Equipment 2.2.2.

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.

Page 15


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.


A search on Google reveals many articles on seabirds disappearing

This Paper details a serious reduction in foraging prey for many birds in the years following harvesting with no return to original status until the harvesting ceases which it does not.



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.


Marine monitoring.

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.

Research paid for by FMC

our report on the above paper


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.

With those responsible taken to task.

Bertram Sømme, Norway

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