How and why the Sea Savers helped to save the kelp.
We are very lucky to have kelp forests around our coasts. Kelp forests are known to be one of the most dynamic and biodiverse habitats on the planet, and as well as providing a habitat for myriad species, some of great commercial importance, they also provide unique ‘ecosystem services’ such as protecting our coastlines from storm surges and erosion, buffering rising ocean acidity, creating an environment where people of all ages can snorkel and wonder at one of the few unspoiled habitats on the planet, and perhaps most importantly given what we know about climate change, they absorb more atmospheric carbon than terrestrial forests.
For more on the science behind all this, check out this report:
Threats and knowledge gaps for ecosystem services provided by kelp forests: A northeast Atlantic perspective
Kelp is the bottom of the food chain and underpins the health of our coastal waters, so when USS heard of plans by an alginate company to be the first to dredge kelp up by the holdfast over a huge area of Scotland’s West Coast, they were horrified.
Kelp dredging has never been licensed in Scotland before, and the rules that the Crown Estate and Scottish Natural Heritage impose on the people that hand harvest are, rightly, very strict, with every species of seaweed being cut in such a way that it can regenerate, no changes being made to the habitat, and all bi-catch being recorded. It would have made no sense to impose these rules on individuals working on a sustainable level and keeping the money they made in small coastal communities, whilst at the same time allowing a large company to come in and haul the habitat out in strips with only a negative impact on the habitat that we rely on. You don’t have to be a Sea Saver to understand what it means to rip out the bottom of the coastal marine food web!
A major protest was launched locally which quickly grew as coastal communities up and down the west coast became aware of the dredge plans.
The Ullapool Sea Savers were closely involved, and used every opportunity to draw attention to the campaign: they wrote to MSPs…
….got photos with celebrities….
…and told pretty much everyone they met…
Ultimately, they even went down to the Scottish Parliament themselves to make sure that the Crown Estate Bill amendment (ensuring only sustainable methods of kelp harvest will be allowed in our seas) was passed.
USS were delighted with the result, and came away with the knowledge that their efforts really can, and do, make a difference.
However: the kelp campaign is not over.
Marine Scotland will launch a seaweed ‘Harvest Review’ this year which may give dredge companies another opportunity to try and push their case. Often money and jobs are used as ‘bait’ to let unpopular activities go ahead, but some things are worth more than money. The kelp habitat is shrinking as a result of global warming and we should be bending over backwards to protect it, never even considering hauling it up for a quick profit.
It is really, really important that those that feed into the review are not influenced in any way by the companies that wish to dredge. Sadly at the moment that includes the Scottish Seaweed Industry Association as 2 of their 3 directors have direct links the company that wanted the kelp dredge license.
USS are keeping their #NoKelpDredge signs to hand, ready to make sure that the big companies that opposed the amendment don’t get too far with attempts to dredge the kelp up anyway!
For updates, head over to No Kelp Dredging on facebook, or look for #nokelpdredge on twitter.
A few of the celebrities who supported USS in their work protecting the kelp.
Snorkelling to Save the Kelp!
Back in October we shared pictures on our Facebook page of the kids snorkelling with Great Barrier reef photography expert Chris Jones (@FishyPix), getting some shots to support the kelp campaign. You can read that post here in case you missed it and by clicking on the little Facebook icon you can see all the photos too.
Some of the #USS were out snorkeling with Living Seas NW Highlands and @FishyPix – Chris Jones, who works on the barrier…
Some of the media coverage of the kelp campaign can be seen over on our Media page.
Looking to the future:
Right now, we’re all about learning as much as we can about all forms of seaweed and all the amazing things can be used for…starting with eating it! We’ve just had a fantastic trip out to a wee spot our seaweed expert knew about at Rhue… we learnt all about what’s growing on our doorstep and we can’t wait to start surveying species in more depth and learning about ways that seaweed can be sustainably farmed….
Watch this space (and our blog)!