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Seaweed grows profusely around Lopez Island. The changing tide twice each day brings the cleansing water of the vast Pacific Ocean to our shores. Summer sunshine this far north floods the sea with solar energy. Many different species of seaweed festoon the rocks with shades of brown, red, green, and the rainbow-like sheen of Iridea. There is no commercial harvest and in fact very few of the locals know what an abundant resource we have at hand.
I want to discuss on this page the varieties of marine plants and their uses with an eye cast in the general direction of the development of their potential as food and an economic resource for the community. While working on the mussel farm, I noticed the profuse growth of seaweeds on the lines, floats, and other equipment in addition to the mussels, barnacles, and such, The mussel farm (being just that) ,of course, makes no use of these plants. I nonetheless see some potential in this abundance.
As described on the mussel farm page, the physical structure of the farm forms an artificial reef which provides habitat for myriad flora and fauna. Even juvenile salmonids find refuge and a meal in the undulating forest. This artificial reef touches the ocean bottom only at anchor points so most it never gets sandy or gritty thus minimizing cleaning procedures. Also, much of the equipment for lifting and moving heavy lines and so forth are already part of the operation. Most of the useful varieties of marine algae grow on the farm.
I emphasize utilizing an "artificial reef" because it seems less disruptive to native populations of plants and animals to harvest from habitat added to the natural environment by artificial means. Certainly, it is arguable that any change of the native populations can be disruptive whether we add habitat or remove habitat. My limited observation leads me to believe that an artificial reef generally improves the condition of a given body of water by providing more places for more plants and animals to live.
Food Uses: Fresh and dried seaweed provide a nutritional addition to diets in many parts of the world, especially in Southeastern and Eastern Asia but rarely in North America. However, alginates made from seaweed thicken and stabilize many commercially produced foods.
Alaria (Alaria Esculenta) Latin name derived from "ala" meaning wing and esculenta meaning edible.
Nereocysis (Nereocystis luetkeana)Common name: Bull kelp
Palmaria (Palmaria palmata)The name refers to the palm-like shape of this red algae. Common English name: Dulse. Dulse commonly grows on rocks, shells, and other algae from the mid-tidal zone to below the low tidal zone.
Fucus (Fucus vesiculosis) Bladderwrack Commonly grows on upper tidal zone rocky seashores.
External links for seaweed
Revised Sunday March 21, 1999
Site developed and updated by DRW
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