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[UK] Sea spaghetti, anyone? Or how about a bladderwrack bath? Gayle goes foraging for seaweed in the East Neuk with Jayson Byles.
Since meeting up with Jayson Byles on a beach in the East Neuk, I’ve bathed in bladderwrack and crafted myriad dinners from various species of foraged seaweeds.
Jayson, a professional seaweed harvester, is a man bursting with passion and enthusiasm. He’s a man who, at first sight, resembles Captain Jack Sparrow, with his flailing dreadlocks, sparkling eyes and ready smile.
Like Jack Sparrow, Jayson is brave and dedicated to his mission – not of slaying pirates of the Caribbean, but of finding his very own treasures in the North Sea.
He moved to the East Neuk three years ago after being offered a management position for a commercial seaweed company. Unhappy with the amount of plastic the company was producing, and keen to pass on his skills of self-sufficiency, Jayson set up East Neuk Seaweed this year.
I’m lucky enough to have Jayson all to myself on a sunny, but extremely chilly, morning in April. We meet at Kingsbarns beach and after a quick briefing, we head down to the rocky shore.
“Most of the action happens in the inter-tidal zone, so the best time to harvest is during the lowest tides, known as ‘spring tides’,” he explains.
We’re on a mission to find an array of seaweeds and when we do find them, we need to harvest them sustainably. That means not ripping out the “holdfast”, the structure that attaches seaweed to rocks and allows it to grow again.
Our first find is bladderwrack, an iodine-rich form of kelp that’s been used medicinally for centuries.
“Put this in a bath and your skin will feel amazingly moisturised,” advises Jayson, plonking a huge handful of the slightly sinister looking stuff into a bag.
Having tasted and loved pepper dulse previously, I whoop with excitement when Jayson finds it in abundance and invites me to pluck some straight from the rocks.
“Try that in a stir fry later if you don’t eat it all raw first,” laughs Jayson.
While elusive, we do indeed find sugar kelp, dulse and dabberlocks, but Jayson is determined to locate some sea spaghetti.
“I’ll need to dive into the sea to find some. I’ve got my wetsuit on and the sun’s out – I’ll be fine,” he smiles.
Minutes later, he emerges with three bags of the stuff which we sample, raw.
“This stuff is amazing,” he says. “My favourite way to eat seaweed is fresh off the rocks. I like simple, so fresh sea spaghetti quickly blanched with a nice dressing and eaten with salad is probably one of my favourite seaweed dishes. Another favourite is porphyra or nori/purple laver, as it’s available in late winter before most land plants have awoken.”
While some regard seaweed as ugly and hazardous to shore-strollers, look at it from another perspective and it’s actually rather beautiful – the ruby red fronds of dulse, the balloon bubbles of bladderwrack, the leathery belts of kelp and translucent green of sea lettuce.
Unconvinced by its associated benefits? Jayson is more than happy to extol its virtues.
“Seaweed is pretty balanced with carbs and protein and high in vitamins.
“It’s also high in magnesium, potassium and all the trace elements that are lacking in modern diets. Washed up seaweed is great for the garden as a mulch, a liquid feed or to boost the compost heap. The ‘alginates’ in seaweed are widely used by both the food and beauty industries,” he enthuses.
When it comes to cooking with seaweed, Jayson, who worked as a professional chef in his native New Zealand, as well as in Australia, Ireland and Scotland, is an expert.
“There are so many options with seaweed – it’s so versatile. If I don’t have seaweed with my eggs in the morning, then my day isn’t the same,” he says.
Jayson’s move from working for a commercial seaweed harvesting company to running his own small business, is, he says, much more sustainable, relatable and enjoyable for everyone involved. It’s also more much supportive for local communities and less impactful on our environment.
“We’re surrounded by this natural abundance, but the only seaweed available to buy is either cheap imported or high end ‘artisan’,” he says.
“I want to pass on a variety of immersive experiences and skills in self-sufficiency, coupled with a respect and awe for nature.
“I take small groups of people on exciting journeys to discover nature’s abundance. On a trip, you’ll learn how to spot inter-tidal zones, how to identify edible seaweeds as they come into season, and how to stay safe in this potentially dangerous environment.
“Wild foods are nutrient dense and unparalleled in terms of health benefits, but we need to be respectful and think long term about the impact on the habitat.
“It’s a constant balance and I hope to really embed that philosophy of moderation into how we approach any wild food.”
Back home in the evening, I can’t wait to start experimenting with my seaweed and first up is my bladderwrack bath.
Once I get used to the strange fronds tickling me (and the odd snail shell), I relax and enjoy the oily, moisturising feeling. Heck, who needs Radox!
Conscious of being eco-friendly, I use the drained bladderwrack as compost in the garden and I’m sure I can see the potentilla starting to perk up!
My dinners for the week are utterly sumptuous, something I never usually say about my cooking. I experiment with stir fries and spaghettis and…just wow!
Seaweed – I salute you!
Jayson is running a series of daytime and sunset edible foraging sessions via East Neuk Seaweed during summer. Tours are based in the East Neuk, but Jayson will travel to groups outside the region. Bespoke sessions can be arranged. Topics include identifying
edible seaweeds, staying safe, sustainability, wild and seasonal cooking, beach craft survival skills, and other uses for seaweed. For more information and to book, see www.eastneukseaweed.com
Photo: Jayson Byles talking Gayle through the different types of seaweed at Kingsbarns.
View original article at: Foraging for seaweed is food for the soul
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[USA] As Maine’s intertidal zone becomes more economically important to fishermen, with the value of baby eels and other species surging in recent years, a recent court decision that has made it harder to harvest seaweed between the high- and low-tide marks has renewed a long-running feud over shore access in the Legislature.
In March, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court ended months of suspense over whether seaweed harvesting could be included among the long-recognized public rights to fish, hunt birds or navigate in the intertidal zone of Maine’s convoluted, 3,500-mile shoreline. Shorefront property owners, some of whom have property deeds that extend all the way out to the low-tide line, control all access to their land above the high-tide line.
To the delight of many shorefront property owners, the court ruled that harvesters must have permission from the upland property owner to cut seaweed above the low-tide line. The decision has resulted in a flurry of legislative proposals now being floated at the State House aimed at boosting public access to the intertidal zone.
According to one lawmaker who believes the state should claim title to the intertidal zone, there is more at stake than just the $820,000 worth of wild rockweed that was harvested along Maine’s coast last year. The issue is about allowing recreational access to the shoreline and protecting commercial marine activities in Maine that generate tens of millions of dollars in annual revenue, he said.
“Anyone can go out in the intertidal zone and blast a shotgun at a bird, but a grandmother can’t go for a walk [on the beach] with her granddaughter,” said Rep. Jeffrey Evangelos, an independent from the lobstering community of Friendship. “It’s also a working waterfront issue.”
Some scientists have criticized the law court decision, saying it mischaracterizes seaweed as a plant, rather than as an algae that can be classified among the marine organisms that state law allows to be harvested in the intertidal zone. Such a legal misconception of how to classify seaweed could have implications for other commercial marine harvesting activities in the intertidal zone, fishing advocates say, either by discouraging development of new products and technologies or by emboldening landowners who want to shoo away harvesters in front of their homes.
Even prior to the seaweed case, people accustomed to digging in some mudflats around Mount Desert Island recently ran into interference from Acadia National Park rangers. This past February, after fielding complaints from harvesters and more than two years after Acadia rangers cracked down on such activities, Congress passed legislation that codifies traditional harvesting (i.e., hand-digging) as permissible on the park’s mudflats.
“Access to clam flats is an ongoing issue for us,” said Chad Coffin, president of the Maine Clammers Association. “For the most part, we access clam flats by land, which typically means crossing over private property. Some landowners understand how important our ability to access the flats is, but many don’t.”
The financial stakes for fishing in Maine’s intertidal zone are on the rise. More than $51 million worth of marine life was dug up, collected or caught between the low- and high-tide marks last year — the third highest annual total value for the state’s intertidal fisheries. Only 2012 and 2013, before Maine adopted yearly catch limits for its lucrative baby eel fishery, had higher intertidal fishery harvest values: roughly $68 million and $64 million respectively.
The increasing economic importance of the intertidal zone comes at a time when the annual landings value of several other species caught farther from shore — with the notable exception of Maine’s dominant $480 million lobster fishery — have declined sharply. Maine’s cod, haddock, shrimp, urchin and white hake fisheries have seen their annual harvest values each drop by millions of dollars since the 1980s and 1990s.
Though Maine’s softshell clam harvest value has fallen by $10 million since 2015, it still remains one of the state’s most valuable fisheries and provides a steady income to roughly 1,600 licensed diggers. The $12.8 million statewide value of last year’s softshell clam harvest remains on par with or better than yearly yields from the 1980s and 1990s, according to state statistics.
Joe Porada, a longtime clam harvester in Hancock County, said that there are places near Ellsworth where many local diggers have encountered growing resistance from shorefront property owners to allow access to nearby tidal flats. However, he doesn’t think access is more of a problem overall than it used to be.
A multi-town shellfish harvesting district established in 2010 around Ellsworth has helped foster better relationships between local clam diggers and some shorefront property owners, he said, by limiting access by clammers who live outside the district.
But as the value in the tidal flats increase, it can complicate those relationships. A good price for clams, sandworms or bloodworms — the latter of which has seen its yearly harvest value nearly quadruple since 2000 — will generate more interest and draw more diggers to the shore, he said. This, in turn, is more likely to generate concerns from nearby property owners.
“There are more people showing up when there’s more money,” Porada said. “That’s been an issue in a couple of places. If [a property owner] sees me driving by every day for five years, it’s different from ‘who the hell are these guys coming down here, and why am I all of a sudden seeing Bud Light cans laying around?’”
The issue of access to Maine’s intertidal zone has been controversial for a long time.
Multiple cases have sprung up over the years from people just wanting to get to and walk along local beaches for recreation, with differing results. In 1989, a group of shorefront property owners in Wells won a lawsuit against that town, which eliminated most public access to Moody Beach, but last year the town of Kennebunkport won a case in which it argued that the public should be allowed general access to Goose Rocks Beach.
The state legislation submitted in Augusta, LD 1316, would allow the state to claim title to the intertidal zone, fully making it public property and giving the state the authority to manage what activities are permitted between the high- and low-tide lines.
Shorefront property owners and their supporters have criticized the proposals, claiming that any attempt by the state to claim ownership of the intertidal zone — without just compensation — would amount to an unconstitutional taking of private property. And it could have a severe impact on shorefront property values, they said.
“Taxes being paid by property owners include the value of the intertidal zone,” Andy Cashman, a Portland attorney who represents the Maine Association of Realtors, told legislators on April 25. “If all that property is confiscated by these proposed laws then upland owners’ remaining property will need to be reassessed, with costs to municipalities and loss of tax revenues.”
If the Legislature does pass a bill that boosts public access rights to the intertidal zone, Evangelos said he thinks it won’t be long before another lawsuit is filed and makes it way back to Maine’s top court. If that happens, he said, it will give the court the chance to more broadly address the issue of public access below the high tide line and to negate what he says — as do three state supreme court justices — was a bad decision 30 years ago in the Moody Beach case.
“That is precisely my hope,” Evangelos said.
Photo: A sign in the parking lot of home kitchen supply store Rooster Brother on Thursday indicates that fishermen cannot use the property to get to the Union River to fish for baby eels, also known as elvers. Bill Trotter | BDN
View original article at: A decision limiting access to seaweed has renewed a debate over access to the shore
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