Sustainable Kelp Harvesting - This is How We Do It.
At Mara, we are passionate about the sustainability of our kelp harvesting. Here, we explain how we harvest and manage the sustainablity of the seaweed under our care, and ensure that it reaches your plate safely and sustainably.
Mara Seaweed have pioneered the process management of gathering wild-growth seaweed, having spent the last five years developed management practices and IT solutions that ensures a steady sustainable supply of prime seaweed for the foreseeable future.
We will do not engage in - and will activity oppose- any activity, such as mechanical harvesting, that damages the integrity of kelp beds and the marine ecosystem. We also have Soil Association Organic accreditation for our seaweed.
There are three main drivers to harvesting operations:
- Customer requirements for reliably clean, delicious and nutrient-rich product
- Ecological best practice
- Responsible and local personnel employment
Mara Seaweed enjoys a long-term collaboration with the Crown Estate in Scotland, who are currently agents to the owner of the land on which the seaweed grows - HM the Queen. (This is in process of being transferred to Scottish Government.) The ownership rights extend from Mean Low Water Spring Tides (MLWS) to the twelve-mile zone. Ownership of the inter-tidal above MLWS can be one of several entities - HM the Queen, private estate, or local authority.
Mara has a contract with the Crown Estate specifying rights and obligations. A key component to this contract is the requirement for overview by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) - who are charged by the Scottish Government to ensure the protection of the natural environment so that there is compliance with international, regional and national law.
Thus, Mara has negotiated target seaweed species and quotas for cutting and gathering. Every year, the Crown Estate and SNH are sent a summary of gathered tonnage for the previous period, and a detailed summary of predicted activity.
The main management tools are contained within an IT mapping system upon which all activity is both planned and recorded. This enables the plotting of target harvest zones, so that gathering data is specific to those zones. The planning software defines activity for each harvest day, for instance: target zone, target tonnage, personnel, avian activity, tidal data and much else. Our supply partners, including our partner in Ireland, have also adopted our harvesting management techniques.
Our Harvest Manager is responsible for implementation and management with daily support from a duty manager at Mara HQ. With a core team of four harvesters, significant amounts of wild seaweed are cut both safely and efficiently. This activity undertaken, on average, 10-14 days a month, from January to May,(kelp) and from September – November (dulse), and only takes place on the lowest monthly tides when the seaweed in accessible from the shore.
Training focuses on three main areas: sustainable cutting techniques so that there is regrowth if the target species, compliance with the Soil Association’s Organic Certification requirements and personal safety.
The harvest team are active on days other than harvest days. Before a harvest, all equipment is checked. Target zones surveyed for water quality and plant condition. On other days staff are trained in, for instance, outdoor first aid. In the off seasons seaweed is monitored for growth, quality and abundance.
Our harvest team are also engaged in citizen science, with a curiosity encouraged as to other life forms within the harvest area. Our carbon footprint is both low AND dainty. They are also actively engaged with the local community, talking at local events, encouraging education and outreach.
The data Mara is collecting -annually is unique, and over the years will provide remarkable evidence as to seaweed abundance in Scotland and Ireland. Mara is the first European company to harvest AND monitor AND record at such a scale. Given that much of the work is in the winter months by hand with NO machines/engines with the team starting at dawn, a grand vote of gratitude is due our steadfast MaraWomen and MaraMen!