Fishery Council Votes to Ban the Harvest of Sargassum Sea Weed – a Vital Sea Turtle Habitat is Protected!

Date: December 14, 1998
Contact: Dan Evans
Phone: (352) 373-6441

GAINESVILLE, FLORIDA — The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council (SAFMC) has voted to ban the harvest and possession of sargassum sea weed in the South Atlantic effective January 1, 2001. During a two-year phaseout, sargassum harvest will be capped at 25 tons/yr (estimated harvest was 180 tons/yr during this period) and restricted to the area of ocean greater than 100 nautical miles from the Outer Banks, North Carolina, and between latitudes corresponding to the northern and southern borders of North Carolina.

In the last few years, commercial fishermen operating along the east coast of the United States have begun to harvest sargassum weed for use as a cheap additive to livestock feed. Until now, there have been no real regulations on the harvest of this important marine resource–despite ample evidence documenting the role sargassum plays in the survival of countless marine organisms.

Before deliberation, the council heard presentations on the value of the sargassum sea weed community to roughly 100 species of fishes and to sea turtles.

The Council has made a wise choice at an opportune moment. Although the single harvester affected by the ban made compelling arguments for continuing the use of a renewable resource, the corresponding loss of essential fish habitat and take of hatchling loggerheads was not perceived as justified. The Council vote precedes the entry of additional harvesters who would make the loss-of-livelihood issue even more sticky.

Thank you to all those who acted on this issue and either sent CCC’s online e-mail or sent their own e-mail to SAFMC. There were hundred of responses on this issue given by the public, both electronic and paper, nearly all of them in favor of the ban. These responses were bound for distribution by the Council into a volume about three centimeters thick. This is testimony to the power of communication over the Internet and the increased attention to E-mail responses.

High quality images can be found in our online Press Room:

The Sea Turtle Conservancy, formerly known as the Caribbean Conservation Corporation, is a not-for-profit, 501(c)3 organization based in Florida with offices and projects in several other locations. The Sea Turtle Conservancy is the oldest and most accomplished sea turtle organization in the world. Since its founding in 1959, the Sea Turtle Conservancy’s work has greatly improved the survival outlook for several species of sea turtles. The Sea Turtle Conservancy has as its mission the protection of sea turtles and the habitats upon which they depend. To achieve its mission, the Sea Turtle Conservancy uses research, habitat protection, public education, community outreach, networking and advocacy as its basic tools. These tools are applied in both international and domestic programs focusing on geographic areas that are globally important to sea turtle survival. For more information, visit the STC website or call (800) 678-7853.