I have just been to a Coastwatch Conference at Trinity College Dublin on taking action to protect our seaweed resources. A wide range of speakers and delegates, each representing still more people from their respective communities, sat down together to discuss the development of seaweed in Ireland.
The overwhelming conclusion was that people really care about seaweed and that it needs to be developed in a sustainable way.
We saw some compelling evidence from Dr Robin Hadlock Seeley of Cornell University who reminded us that we need to consider seaweed less as a resource for us and more as an ecological habitat for many species that we depend on. If we are collecting seaweed, we need to do it in a way that preserves habitats and ecosystems. This is fundamental to what we mean by sustainability.
Richard Bates of the European Commission told us a little more about what resources are already under threat.
The delegates had their own goals, hopes and aspirations for how they want to develop seaweed, but enough integrity and respect for the community to listen to each other’s views. We split into study groups to consider 1) the implementation and enforcement of nature, organic and water law…2) information, participation, training and citizen science…and 3) social issues and traditional rights.
It was noted that people need access to clear information on all legal issues pertaining to foreshore licensing and the ability to access seaweed and circulation of information on seaweed from all the bodies involved to increase awareness of best practice.
In the light of the recently released documentary ‘Atlantic’ which looks at how fishing rights and access to mineral resources have impacted on local communities, there is a will to develop seaweed in a sustainable manner which both secures ecological systems and habitats AND supports local economies and communities.
We used to refer to the rainforests as the lungs of the planet, soaking up CO2 and generating oxygen for other life forms. That didn’t stop rainforests being cut down. The species in our oceans produce more than 50% of the planet’s oxygen and those species are related in an integral way to the larger algae species that we call seaweeds. If we start interfering with seaweeds without closely monitoring the impact our actions have on wider ecosystems, we really have NO idea of the problems we will be creating for ourselves in the future.
Seaweed is possibly our last chance to work with nature to restore some kind of balance to our struggling climate…or a changing climate in which we are struggling. We have made some truly amazing scientific discoveries, but only plants and algae recycle CO2 to Oxygen. We simply cannot do that in the energy efficient way that these incredible species can.
The more people know that something has a direct impact on their livelihood, the more people care about it. The more people realise how important the issues around seaweed are to their lives, the more people will care about seaweed. The more people care about the issues around seaweed development, the more chance we have of getting it right.
Please, pass it on…let’s get everyone caring about seaweed.
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