How we harvest seaweed impacts the ecosystem and local communities of the Outer Hebrides, making the sustainability of our methods of primary importance. Our responsibility starts with the harvest and the sustainable methods our Harvesters practice. Here’s a glimpse at how we bring ethically-sourced seaweed to people in Scotland and beyond.
For much of Scottish history, locals harvested seaweed by hand. Harvesters who keep with this tradition venture out during low tide to remove Ascophyllum nodosum seaweed from submerged rocks or boulders. Using a serrated sickle, Harvesters cut the seaweed from its holdfast (root), taking deliberate care to leave 5 to 20 cm still attached to the stone. This allows the seaweed to regrow and flourish now and in the future.
As Harvesters cut seaweed from the rocks, they gather the vegetation together and bring their landings to the shore for processing. If you’ve been along the coast of North Uist, you’ve likely witnessed Harvesters wearing hip waders moving from one seaweed cluster to another. Under our natural resource management, each harvested patch of seaweed is left to grow for three to five years before Harvesters return again.
Traditional harvesting methods are at the mercy of the tides. When the ocean waves roll in, the harvest comes to a halt. Yet through the innovation of our boat and rake method, our Harvesters are able to increase their daily seaweed landings without straining the vibrant local ecosystem.
Using a customized rake with an extended handle, our Harvesters now gather Ascophyllum nodosum at high or low tide. As they prune a sustainable amount of the seaweed with their specially-designed rake, they can immediately deposit it into the boat’s hold and move on to the next plant. Just like harvesting by hand, this method stimulates seaweed growth in the long-term and leaves enough vegetation for marine biodiversity to thrive.