Seaweed Commons and the Rockweed ruling
While our praxis is framed in a commons approach to resource management, Seaweed Commons supports the efforts of the Rockweed Coalition in its aim to garner legal protection for rockweed.
The 2019 ruling functions as a partial win for rockweed conservationists, setting up barriers to industrial overharvest. But there is a disconnect between the new enforcement policy and what is happening on the water, all under the discretion of the Maine Department of Marine Resources (DMR). Despite the ruling, Acadian Seaplants continues to cut seaweed in conservation areas without permission. Now, landowners can call marine patrol if they witness unconstituted rockweed harvest proximate to their land, but there is no effective enforcement action by the DMR.
Rather than imagining rockweed worlds as entirely separate from human ones, in need of paternalistic protection, what if we asked: How could the harvest of a public trust dwelling organism center common systems of knowledge, control, and value? We could begin with the emergence of formal territoriality or sector allocation to ensure that each seaweed ledge is harvested only once during a season. We could advance citizen science data-collecting initiatives, social reimaginings of property relations, deeper understandings of social/ecological histories at multiple scales, and greater transparency and coordination between harvesters.