National Organic Standards Board Ruling

The algae habitat attached to the rocky coastline of our state celebrates a conservation win!

After broad campaigning, including by members of Seaweed Commons, the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) committee of the USDA organic program has decided to investigate sustainability and accountability in the harvest of seaweed for agricultural fertilizer. This means that the organic industry believes that the habitat qualities of the rockweed forest should be protected above and beyond the standards, rules, and oversight provided by the Maine Department of Marine Resources (DMR).

The proposed harvest parameters are:

  •     Prohibited harvest areas: established conservation areas under federal, state, or local ownership, public or private, including parks, preserves, sanctuaries, refuges, or areas identified as important or high-value habitats at the state or federal level. 
  •     Prohibited harvest methods: bottom trawling and harvest practices that prevent reproduction and diminish the regeneration of natural populations. Harvest practices should ensure that sufficient propagules10, holdfasts, and reproductive structures are available to maintain the abundance and size structure of the population and its ecosystem functions.
  •     Harvest timing: repeat harvest is prohibited until biomass and architecture (density and height) of the targeted species approaches the biomass and architecture of undisturbed natural stands of the targeted species in that area. 
  •     Bycatch: must be monitored and prevented, or eliminated in the case of special status species protected by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or National Marine Fisheries Service." 

There is still a long way to go before these new annotations make it into the regulations. A scientific task force will be assembled to figure out how these annotations would be interpreted in the harvest of each of the primary seaweed species used for fertilizer. Only then would the legislative process will begin. 

Read more:

Formal Recommendation From: National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) To: the National Organic Program (NOP)

National Organic Standards Board Materials Subcommittee Proposal Marine Macroalgae1 in Crop Fertility Inputs