Date: October 9, 1998
Contact: Dan Evans
Phone: (352) 373-6441
Council votes to ban the harvest of sargassum sea weed by the yera 2001!
Sargassum sea weed is an essential component of the open-ocean ecosystem. It is particularly important to the survival of hatchling and post-hatchling sea turtles, which are known to spend the first year or more of their lives drifting in the sargassum rafts that gather in the Gulf Stream and circle the Atlantic. Sargassum also supports a diverse community of marine invertebrate and vertebrate species, some of which are only found in floating sargassum, by providing food and shelter from prey.
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. Fortunately, the governmental body that oversees commercial fishing regulations is considering implementing a complete ban on the harvest of sargassum–before the commercial harvest gets out of hand.
The South Atlantic Fisheries Management Council (SAFMC) will meet at the end of November to vote on the proposed regulation. Your help is needed to let Council members know that the public supports the ban. The vote will be close, but with your input this important sea turtle habitat can be protected. The SAFMC met on Sept 24, 1998, to vote on the measure, but several Council members were absent and the vote ended in a tie. We have until November to make sure the ban is approved.
Other background information:
Research has found that sargassum provides nearly 60% of the primary productivity in the upper three feet of the ocean and provides nutrients to organisms at deeper water depths as the older plants die and eventually sink.
For sea turtles, sargassum plays a vital role in the early stages of life for hawksbill, green and loggerhead sea turtles. Once hatchlings reach the ocean from their nesting beach, they swim out to the floating mats of sargassum sea weed. The floating mats provide a wide variety of food and provide cover, helping to increase their chance of survival at this very vulnerable stage in life.
It has been suggested by proponents of continued sargassum harvest that sea turtle hatchlings and other wildlife can be removed and released alive while the sargassum is collected. In addition to the fact that hatchling turtles and other small critters would be difficult to spot in the weed mats, even the released turtles would likely die without the food and shelter provided by the sargassum.
You can help stop the harvest by contacting the SAFMC and urging its members to support the proposed ban. You can mail or fax your own letter.
Send letters to:
South Atlantic Fisheries Management Council
1 Southpark Circle, Suite 306
Charleston, SC 29407-4699
Fax: (843) 769-4520