In this matter, the seaweed harvester’s attitude has to be, “I take total responsibility.” One drop of gas or oil on the surface of the water creates a sheen on the water. One kelp frond, pulled up out of the water through that oily sheen, HAS to be assumed to have been contaminated by petrochemicals, whether it shows up in laboratory analysis or not! What does this mean, in terms of daily practice? It means that the tow boat has to be powered by a four cycle outboard motor (like your car engine) that does not require a fuel mixture of gas and oil (a smelly chain saw, for instance, uses that gas/oil mix) and does not pollute the water. If the compression and rings of the four cycle engine are good, that engine will not create an oily sheen on the water. My Yamaha 9.9 horsepower towboat motor is good in that respect. Nevertheless, just to be safe, that towboat is used to haul crew, not seaweed, and a separate container boat and small surf shuttle-boats are used to haul seaweed. After the tow boat is safely anchored away from the seaweed beds, the container boat and shuttle boats are unhitched and rowed into the beds.
The container boat is originally bare wood that is annually painted with raw linseed oil….raw because it doesn’t contain any drying agents that would be considered contaminants. The container boat turns dark with age, like an old salad bowl. Likewise, any smaller boat that I use to shuttle seaweed from surf bed and ledge to the container boat is bare wood oiled with linseed oil, and nothing else. This should be part of the Organic Standards, but it’s not, so I don’t bother to spend the cash on certification. It sometimes infuriates me that other companies claim to be “Organic” without adhering to such a standard. Sometimes you will actually see a video of a harvester from another seaweed company who is using one boat, and there’s absolutely no bulkhead separating motor/gas tank and cargo! Again, see if you can actually speak to the harvester and determine what type of boats and outboard motors he is using! I am no fan of corporate bigness when it comes to knowing where my food comes from. (Note: as other harvesters come forward and adopt my standards, I’ll consider creating another website that represents a “guild with no guild secrets”. For the time being, this website serves to distinguish the difference between market capitalist mentality in the seaweed industry and harvesters who are dedicated to working within a radius of home port for a lifetime in order to create and hold a collective “memory of place” that nourishes and stabilizes their local community.)