Fragile and Rare: Nori, Dulse, Bladderwrack

What about Dulse and Nori and Bladderwrack?

When mussel draggers stirred up the mussel spat (spawn) in Gouldsboro Bay and Dyer Bay, more and more dulse beds became infested with baby mussels that never seem to grow to adulthood. They landed too high in the zone to grow properly. This is one of those unintended consequences that are never considered when the powers-that-be open an area to dragging. Consequently, I don’t spend much time chasing dulse, except way offshore. When I find a good bed of dulse, it’s been my experience that I can pick that zone three times in a summer: late June, mid July, and late August. It always comes back because it has the ability to survive as a tiny holdfast disc throughout the winter in a zone that is subject to frost. Nori, on the other hand, is a very rare plant, easily over-harvested, and I do not harvest it with the intent of offering it as a regular year ‘round commercial offering. You have to be on my August shipping list if you want it, and I will be sold out by end of September. My advice to nori harvesters is, “If you find a bed, don’t tell anyone about it.” This is what should be printed in the harvest guidelines of the Maine Seaweed Council. The corporate CEO’s at the Maine Seaweed Council don’t listen to me much because I’m just a dumb harvester who has remained an owner-operator for a lifetime. I’m not interested in having employees. I’m not interested in turnkey exploitation of workers. I’m an educator at heart, I encourage people to become entrepreneurs in their own right, and I don’t think that the values of market capitalism will ultimately take us toward a harmonious outcome for the entire community living on earth, the spirit garden, a school for souls.

CEO’s at the Maine Seaweed Council like to talk about dividing up the coast of Maine into “sectors” that can be exploited by corporations (I’m not kidding you: one of the scientists-for-hire actually uses the term “exploit” to describe the actions of employees raking rockweed; he very cleverly tells the truth but manages to bury the word in the midst of “scientific” writing that seems to imply that what the employee is doing is sustainable!), all the while ignoring the real limits to sustainability that an owner-operator comes to understand, working within the same “radius from home port” for a lifetime. The “employee” (roving pirate for hire) who may be “a person of no particular origin” (that is, “a person lacking day-to- day and year-to-year hands-on memory of place”) doesn’t have the same loyalty to a community that depends upon its local resources as compared to a native resident “owner operator” who knows that over-harvesting one year will result in a failed harvest the following year. More about this when I get around to discussing rockweed. As for bladderwrack, it’s a plant that supports the thyroid, and I have a few small beds that I have carefully harvested for 40 years in two and sometimes three year rotations, and again, I don’t advertise their location. ‘Nuff said.