With all of the attention on wildcrafting in the sea moss space, many people are left wondering ‘just what is wildcrafted sea moss?’ The challenge is that this question has an underbelly that very few people are aware of.
We will look at that some more in a little while. But first, let’s check out the story behind wildcrafting sea moss.
What is Wildcrafted Sea Moss?
Wildcrafted sea moss is collected from shorelines and beaches in areas where sea moss grows naturally. The process typically involves cutting or removing the sea moss from the location where it has embedded itself. This is how many seaweeds grow, and they all form a part of the ecosystem they are found in.
When sea moss, and other seaweeds are wildcrafted, some people are more conscientious than others and only cut the plant a little bit up from where it is rooted on to the rock or substrate. Others are less concerned about the impact on the environment and rip the seaweed out from where they find it.
Either way, we’re not fans of wildcrafting as it takes away from the environment.
Regardless of if you’re careful with how you cut the seaweed off the rock, or pick it up off the beach if it’s washed up, you’re not actually doing anything to give back. And neither are you doing anything to give back when you buy wildcrafted products.
It is our belief is that it’s more important to look after the Oceans and our Planet, and where it is feasible and sustainable, planting additional sea moss or other seaweeds for harvesting purposes. Stick with me on this for a little while as I outline my rationale.
But I thought Real Sea Moss had to be Wildcrafted?
I get that wildcrafting is a romantic idea, but how many people do you think buy sea moss regularly? This question poses a bit of a challenge when you think about it on a commercial scale. What are the direct and indirect impacts related to this?
Did you know that many islands in the Caribbean which are looked to in the marketplace as being primary producers of sea moss are known to have extremely fragile shoreline ecosystems?
Take for example St. Lucia, where studies have shown that there are sections of their shore lines which are protected by coral reefs that are classified as vulnerable. Wildcrafting in such a place adds pressure to the already delicate balance.
Projections have estimated that if coastal development is not controlled, of the 1,462 square kilometers of sea grasses (the habitats that include those where sea moss grows) assessed in the Caribbean in 2010, that these will slip back to as low as 155 square kilometers by 2025 if appropriate controls are not put in place (Source: Clarke et al. 2013). That’s a shocking 89.39% reduction in sea grass habitat area.
So, you can see that there is cause for consideration and discussion at the very least on the topic of wildcrafting. It’s not just the sea moss taken away for human consumption that the Oceans are contending with, it’s also the development of the shorelines that these normally grow along.
But your small bag of sea moss isn’t such a big deal, right?
I would encourage you to think again. You’re just 1 person out of an estimated 7.7 billion people on the planet. Not all of the 7.7 billion people use sea moss though, so it’s not that big of a deal, right?
Let’s assume that 0.01% of the global population consume sea moss regularly. That’s 770,000 people. Still sounds like a lot, right? That’s only 23,000 people more than the population of the population of Guyana.
What countries do you know where people buy sea moss? I can say that our Customers to date include people (in no particular order) in:
- New Zealand
- South Africa
These are not countries with small populations. So, how much sea moss could they possibly consume in a year? To keep it simple, lets choose a rather low round number like 10,000 people.
10,000 people is a small number
That’s only 0.00012% of the estimated global population of 7.7 billion people. Or 1.4% of the population of Guyana. Guyana in 2012 had a population of 747,000 people according to their census.
To provide further context, the estimated population of the Caribbean is around 44.9 million people. My point being that 10,000 is a grossly underestimated number to begin with, but it’s tangible.
Let’s say these 10,000 people all buy a single 4oz (approximately 125g) bag of sea moss each month. As a fresh seaweed that has not been dried, that could be as much as 2.2lb (approximately 1kg) which would cover a surface area of as much as 1 square foot (30cm square) when dried.
So, let’s multiply that by 12 so we get the annual volume for 1 person; 4oz becomes 3lb (125g becomes 1.5kg) of dried sea moss which covers a surface area of 12 square feet (3.6m square).
When you multiply that by 10,000 people, which is really quite an underestimate, the numbers become staggering.
So, let’s multiply those figures so we get the annual volume for 10,000 people; 3lb becomes 15t (1.5kg becomes 15,000kg) of dried sea moss which covers a surface area of 4.13 acres (36km square).
If the average beach area is 50m from the shore to the land as a measure of width, this would mean that 36km square would give us 720km (447 miles) of coastline that has had sea moss taken away from it every year.
You can see that this requires much more consideration than knowing how to spot fake sea moss, which is important, but the topic is much bigger than that. This is about our Planet and our Oceans, our Home, and what we’re doing to it.
But we know that the beaches aren’t 100% covered in sea moss at any time. Even after a big storm when there is a huge amount of seaweed washed up on the shore, it’s typically not all sea moss.
So if we conservatively say that 10% of the beach could have sea moss on it at time it stands to reason that we could estimate as much as 7,200km (4,473 miles) of coastline. That’s huge!
Think about it this way, the World Resources Institute calculates the following countries coastlines as below. If the volume of Sea Moss we’re talking about was wildcrafted from the shores of these countries, the results would be devastating. Even with Sea Moss being able to renew at approximately 45 days for maturation.
|Country||Coastline in Kilometers||Multiples of Coastline|
|Antigua and Barbados||289km||24.91|
What is the alternative to Wildcrafted Sea Moss?
Taking a responsible approach to farming our Oceans is something that all of us need to aspire to supporting. It is only when unsustainable operations do not have your money coming to them that they will cease to exist.
This is not about declaring war on any businesses or the wholesale shutting down of unsustainable operations. It is a longer term application of pressure to apply environmentally friendly changes.
We want to see the current sea moss businesses change what they do. You most likely have your preferred supplier, and that’s fine. But if they aren’t doing the right thing by the Planet, then it’s your responsibility to decide if you wish to continue to support them.
What can be done to change from Wildcrafting Sea Moss?
Instead of wildcrafting at a commercial scale, sea moss businesses need to look towards responsible open ocean farming practices. The emphasis here being on ‘responsible’.
Ocean verticulture may be the source to a future food source that will help both our Planet, and future populations.
There are still challenges with open ocean farming practices, but, as we test more ways of doing this, we get better each time. It is initiatives like this that we seek to support and promote awareness of.
The main consideration when it comes to the open ocean farming of any seaweed, in our opinion, is that it can not be a species that introduces a threat to the area that it is being farmed in.
As much as adding more seaweed to the ocean is a better option than wildcrafting, adding a marine noxious weed can cause a lot more harm than good. Numerous cases are succinctly presented in Seaweed Invasions – A Synthesis of Ecological, Economic and Legal Imperatives (2008) by Professor Craig R. Johnson.
As you can see, looking at the question ‘what is wildcrafted sea moss?’ simply touches the tip of the topic. There are more dynamic elements to this that require consideration as a priority. Particularly over the romantic ideal that your sea moss came from a pristine beach that grew there naturally. That to me is an indication enough that it is not the right thing to wildcraft for commercial purposes.