The Sustainable Harvesting of Chondrus Crispus and Gracilaria is Ideal for Sea Moss Consumers

Updated: Aug 14, 2021


Graphic Designed by Paul | Kuro Arts



Introduction | The Producers of the Ocean's Food Chain


A familiar side effect of sea moss is that it has been proven useful to the health of countless consumers. However, nothing is more legitimate than your body's personal response. Sea moss is available at most farmers markets, natural food stores and online herb stores. The challenge is finding out if your sea moss contains the full value of minerals.


Algae provides Earth with most of it's oxygen and has done so before trees and other land plants grew themselves present. Sea moss is a small portion of over 300,000 collected species of algae. Algae is categorized as either brown, red or green. The most commonly consumed red algae species are chondrus crispus and gracilaria.


These species along with a few others have been deemed usable in food and medicine. Algae marks the roots of the ocean's food chain. Proper harvesting is imperative because if the roots deteriorate then so will the rest.





Seaweed uses energy from sunlight, to transform carbon dioxide and water into glucose, in order to feed sea life. The oxygen we breathe is produced as a result. Throughout history, seaweed has been used in traditional medicines to boost the immune system. These marine plants have saved and brought life on our planet. Maintaining their ability to reproduce should be a priority when harvesting.



Earth's Rotation Allows Ocean Minerals to Flow Through Aquatic Life


Algae is no stranger on the beach and consumable seaweeds should be friends to your kitchen. The potassium in seaweed gives it a salty taste, making these sea vegetables perfect to satisfy cravings. Sea Moss grows with the motion of the ocean and is fueled by waves of energy. The ocean is a sponge of minerals soaking every living organism inside with needed elements for growth.


Thanks to the spin of our planet, ocean currents bring new batches of seaweed to the surface.

Currents can speed up, slow down or change direction. Chondrus crispus gets it's minerals from the ocean as the tides go in and out. As water moves from the depths of the ocean, up to the surface, it carries micro nutrients with it which form the base of many ocean food chains.

The art of nature is how it feeds us.

There is a lot to consider when determining the amount of nutrients and minerals in these edible seaweeds. The ocean makes up such a large portion of Earth and the sections within vary by geological location, current flow and temperature. These differences explain the variety in quality of seaweeds all over the world.


The quality of sea moss is equivalent to air above the ocean. The gases, humidity and pollution levels can make or break the content of the seaweeds. Air is made up of mostly nitrogen gas, oxygen and carbon dioxide. The nitrogen gas in the atmosphere diffuses into the ocean through a process called fixation. The right balance of nitrogen and phosphorous are important for the growth of chondrus crispus and gracilaria.



Mineral Deficiency


Fast food industry markets are expected to continue growing. Sea moss can provide us with the Vitamin C that most fast food companies lack. Sea moss is full of minerals, like Iodine which helps regulate our metabolic process and supports thyroid function. Including properly harvested seaweeds in supplements and meals would provide individuals with essential nutrients and minerals.


"Chondrus Crispus pulls nutrients from the rocks," explained Dr. Grace, founder of Honest Herbs Store.


The Irish Potato Famine of the 1800's


With no employment available in Ireland, the most effective way a laborer could live and support a family was to get a patch of land and grow potatoes. By 1845, the option to harvest the potato crop was no longer available. Majority of the potatoes grown by farmers contained dark fungus patches inside of them which continued to spread the following year.


People starved and some got sick from eating the rotten yields. It got to the point where they started to eat anything they could find to survive. This led them to picking easily accessible seaweeds like chondrus crispus from the rocks. They noticed when eating it they were healthy and the discovery of this red algae plant became a huge part of their history.



Irish Moss | The Sea Moss Industry


Around 1847, Daniel Ward was sailing off the coast of Boston when he noticed chondrus crispus in the waters of Scituate, Massachusetts. The Irishmen began to migrate. They started to harvest and sell sea moss. Scituate became the birthplace of the Irish Moss Industry.


Once a product is in high demand, sellers find ways to decrease production time and increase pricing. This could be financially beneficial for them but not so much for the consumer or nature. Greed and impatience could be removed from harvesting by focusing on bringing more to nature instead of taking more from it.


Skeptical sea moss consumers want to know exactly where their products came from and how it was harvested. Ways to ensure your sea moss came from a trustworthy source, how marine biologist test the waters for harmful chemicals and ways to harvest sea moss are within the scope of this blog post.




Sea Moss | Chondrus Crispus and Raw Honduras Sea Moss



Photographed by Hannah Sanders



Harvesting to Reproduce


Harvesting is cutting the crop after it is mature, the goal is to cut seaweeds without destroying their ability to reproduce. There are three ways to harvest sea moss:




Wild Crafting | Gathering Sea Moss in the Most Natural Conditions





Raw Chondrus Crispus | The Atlantic Coast

Photographed by Hannah Sanders



Wild harvesting seaweed is when you cut it from the rocks it is attached to or grab the floating moss from the ocean. On land, it's like picking berries from the bush. Chondrus Crispus is a red algae species that is harvested for use in medicines that help the body fight off infections. The pigments inside absorb sunlight and pass that solar energy through the body of this sea plant.



"The color pigments of chondrus crispus will be great for people with cardiovascular diseases, they represent oxygen." Dr. Grace stated.

Seaweed Harvesting Licensing and Restrictions


Sea moss harvesting rules are set in place to prevent people from over gathering or collecting seaweeds in areas that could be a threat to health. A license is usually not required when collecting seaweed floating ashore in small quantities. To gather larger quantities, a Marine Harvesting License for Seaweed is required and is usually more expensive for non residents,


You are free to harvest up to 50 pounds in Maine and up to a 10 pound bag per day in California.

Take a hang scale to measure the amount of seaweed you have. Always consider the following:


  • learning about harvesting restrictions in the area;

  • uprooting is illegal in some areas;

  • avoiding potential hazards associated with seaweed.



Where | Coastlines


A few hours before and after low tides is when chondrus crispus can be easy to spot. If you will be on the beach for a while, you could lay the seaweed on the rocks to sun-dry. The best time to harvest is during a full moon when the tide drops low. Any coastal areas with a lot of rocks is where you could find sea moss along with other seaweeds like kelp. The color could vary, it depends on fresh water exposure from the rain and light intensity.



How


Use a knife or scissors to cut off the top of the plant above the hold fast, leave the bottom attached to the rock so it can continue to grow. The most growth takes place during spring and summer. After a storm, go out to the shoreline to harvest fresh piles of seaweed





Cons

  • False Advertisement, some packaging labeled "wildcrafted" are not truly.

  • Wild crafting seaweed sometimes fails to put more seaweed in the oceans than it takes out.





Soaked Raw Chondrus Crispus | The Atlantic Coast

Photographed by Hannah Sanders





From Ocean to Drying


Before Drying rinse to get any sand critters off. When seaweed is dried it looks less shiny, loses some color and it has a crunchy sound. Ways to dry include:


  • sun dry;

  • air dry;

  • dry using an air blower;

  • dry on a sheet tray in oven at lowest temperature setting, takes about 4 hours.


Cleaning:


  • rinse with spring water;

  • run your fingers through the sea moss to get everything off;

  • soak the chondrus crispus in spring water and key lime juice for 16 hours to clean and balance the taste/smell;

  • drain the chondrus crispus and rinse again;

  • do not use vinegar, it destroys the nutrients in chondrus cripsus.



After cleaning your chondrus crispus, you could blend it with spring water using a high powered blender to make sea moss gel. Use it in smoothies or apply it to your face as a mask and rinse with cold water. Try this 1200 watt blender




Raw Sea Moss | The Honduras

Photographed by Hannah Sanders



The Carribean Sea Coastlines


Dr. Grace mentioned how hard it was to harvest sea moss in the Honduras, the question is why. Apparently, the winds of the Carribean Sea can be very strong at times making it hard to travel by boat. There is also a high rate of piracy going on so it is just not safe for new harvesters. If you think about going out to the Carribean Sea to harvest sea moss, take someone who has experience.


"Our Honduras sea moss can be used as a detox," mentioned Dr. Grace.



Soaked Raw Sea Moss | The Honduras

Photographed by Hannah Sanders






Advancement of Civilization and Influences on the Sea Moss Industry


The environment changes right along with humanity. The issue is that there are companies out that are not faithfully reproducing sea moss. Ocean farming can be useful in some ways if done properly, without rushing the process. It is important to harvest in clean waters and stay patient under all circumstances.




Ocean Farming | An Underwater Garden of Sea Moss




The Aquaculture Industry


As the population increases so does the demand for aquatic foods such as fish, oysters and sea moss. For a while seafood was mainly caught from the wild but now it is equivalently farmed to meet our high food demands . There are several ocean farming methods and all are conducted controlled environments.


Vertical seaweed aquaculture is when farmers deploy ropes into the ocean to control the reproduction of sea moss. It is done to provide more food resources. Ocean farmed seaweed also removes more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and slows down the reduction of marine life. The objective would be to raise the seaweed cultures in conditions suitable for human consumption, this is seaweed hatchery.


Ocean farming is practiced worldwide and the largest sea weed farm is located in China. Harvesting Sea Moss has proven to reduce poverty in some countries by providing food sources that people could rely on and sea farming jobs.




Regulations


Organically certified farmed seaweeds are required to be grown in areas free of contamination. USDA Organic certification assures your seaweed is the best available.






Brine Pool or Tank Grown Sea Moss | Method with the most human interaction



Where


Research centers take the algae from the ocean to bring it to a land based tank.



How


They study to see how the seaweeds grow and reproduce. The pools contain machines which move the moss back and forth and creates more mucilage for whatever reason, causing seaweeds like gracilaria to be three times thicker than its original size.


Purpose


Sea Moss is harvested in Brine Pools or tanks to increase the quantity in the market. Carrageenan is extracted from the sea moss to use in products like toothpaste, beer and lotions. Carrageenan is a thickener.



Challenges


Producing algae with the right mineral content and structure.


When sea moss isn’t fully dried as it should, salt is added to absorb moisture. This is an improper practice and should be avoided. Most farms will coat the sea moss in iodized salt to preserve it, the key is to look for the sea moss coated in less salt. The faster sea moss is produced the less quality.






Local Farmers Market Sea Moss | Gracilaria


A few people have claimed that majority of the sea moss in the farmers markets were raised in brine pools and are not obtained directly from the ocean. When purchasing sea moss from the farmers market try to find out exactly where it came from and how it was harvested.


Photographed by Hannah Sanders









Avoid Contaminated Sea Moss | Water Pollution


Seaweeds absorb heavy metals and pollutants so it is important to harvest in clean waters. Ensure that waters are tested by Marine Biologist, who check the water quality. They measure the physical, chemical and biological characteristics of the water. Try to avoid urban areas or any other areas where water quality could be questionable.


Water Pollution


When toxins are released it causes water oxygen levels to decrease enough for marine life to die or run away. Toxins are released through:


  • Ports and harbours;

  • Exposure to commercial shipping lanes;

  • Gas Motors.



Ships can reduce their speed to use less fuel, resulting in fewer pollutants.




Chemical Characteristics of Water


Dissolved Oxygen


Moving water contains more oxygen than still water bodies. The amount of oxygen dissolved in the water comes from sources in the surrounding atmosphere and aquatic plants. Levels can be tested by putting a probe into the water for a digital read out.


Temperature


Tells us a lot about the season and what animals may be migrating or hibernating. Climate change can effect how sea moss grows.


PH


A chemical factor that controls a lot of other chemical factors.


Nitrates and phosphates


Excessive amounts of nutrients can lead to algael blooms and deadzones.


Conductivity


Test in fresh water stream. streams in urban areas tend to have higher conductivity which isn't natural for those streams.


The water itself is considered healthy based off the measurements of the chemical parameters. The biological and physical factors must be considered as well.




What to look for when purchasing different varieties of Sea Moss?



  • Certificate of Authenticity


To prevent purchasing sea moss from untrustworthy companies, request a certificate of authenticity. This will ensure that their sea moss was tested for harmful chemicals. If you have any skepticism about getting your sea moss from other countries just request a certificate of authenticity.


If you aren't able to send your sea moss species to the lab for testing, consider asking the company you purchased from if they got their sea moss tested for chemicals and mineral composition. This is just one more step closer to obtaining authentic sea moss.


Sea Moss Batch Release Testing


This is done by having samples for each batch tested for a range of elements such as heavy metals, toxins, pathogenic microorganisms and their toxins).


Herbal product testing services



Tests Include:

  • Pesticide residues

  • Heavy metal analysis

  • Eur / BP / USP

Lab Services

  • Raw Material

  • Batch Release Testing

  • Stability

  • Development Services

  • Microbiology









Types of Analysis


  • HPLC-PDA High performance chromatography to test for Mannitol, alginic acid, laminarins, saturates, unsaturates, omega 3 oils, omega 6 oils, carbohydrates, polysaccharides, vitamin A, B6, C, E, K, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, folate, choline. This type of analysis is used to find the relative amounts of different components in a mixture.


  • ICPOES to test for calcium, sodium, ioldine, magnesium, iron, zinc, maganese, copper potassium and selenium.











Take a second to think


How can you ensure your sea moss is harvested in a chemical free environment?


How do you feel before and after consumption?





References



Dr. Grace, personal communication, April 21, 2021


Krueger-Hadfield SA, Collén J, Daguin-Thiébaut C, Valero M. GENETIC POPULATION STRUCTURE AND MATING SYSTEM IN CHONDRUS CRISPUS (RHODOPHYTA)1. J Phycol. 2011 Jun;47(3):440-450. doi: 10.1111/j.1529-8817.2011.00995.x. Epub 2011 May 4. PMID: 27021973.


Parra-Torrado, Monica. 2014. Youth unemployment in the Caribbean. Caribbean knowledge series. Washington, DC : World Bank Group.


Popper, Z., G. Michel, Cécile Hervé, D. Domozych, W. Willats, M. Tuohy, B. Kloareg and D. B. Stengel. “Evolution and diversity of plant cell walls: from algae to flowering plants.” Annual review of plant biology 62 (2011): 567-90.


Rudolph B. Seaweed product: Red Algae of Economic Significance. In: Martin RE, Carter EP, Davis LM, Flich GJ, editors. Marine and Freshwater Products Handbook. Lancaster, USA: Technomic Publishing Company Inc.; 2000. p. 515–529.


The Vineyard and The South Shore (1889, January 28). A Scarcity of Sea Moss. The New York Times. Paper Edition.





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