What sets Algamar Apart?

What really sets us apart: our sustainable harvesting methodology through manual pruning.

Since 1996, Algamar has been the number one Spanish company specializing in the harvesting and production of dried seaweed. This is primarily about human nutrition.

Algamar is synonymous with pioneering companies. At the core of its business is the valorization of algae: they are rightly considered a resource with high nutritional value. In other words, Algamar carries out constant, extensive and significant work in the field of algae. Scientific activities, research and development are carried out in collaboration with the main Galician universities (UVigo, USC, UdC), with the Complutense University of Madrid and with the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (Spain's Supreme Council for Scientific Research), to name just a few -continuously maintained.

Algamar's corporate philosophy, environmental policy and ecological commitment revolve around a sustainable methodology for collecting algae. This methodology was developed by our technicians and experts with the support of scientists. It constantly guarantees the respect, the preservation of the marine ecosystem and the seaweed itself. The long-term possibility of carrying out our activity is thus guaranteed.

We are aware that seaweed is a natural resource with exceptional properties from a nutritional and organic point of view. Algae are also living organisms that we harvest in a healthy and respectful way. It is purely logical to look after, protect and preserve our “sea garden”: we collect the best specimens from it at any time of the year.

When harvesting, we apply mechanisms that ensure sustainability, density of algal stocks and the preservation of subsequent generations of algae, thus guaranteeing the integrity of the marine ecosystem.

One of our basic strategies is to systematically use human manual pruning – and never start mechanizing the harvesting process. With machines it would of course be much more effective from the point of view of profitability, but also very aggressive and not very sustainable for the algae populations and for the marine ecosystem in general!

We collect the different seaweeds in their optimal season. The optimal season corresponds to the months when the nutritional and organic properties of the algae and their composition are at their best. During this time, our divers and team members collect and select the algae individually by hand. Using a cutting tool, a "sickle" or a knife, they cut off the leaves above the stem without damaging its base. This is the only way that allows the algae to complete their cycle and continue growing unharmed. It is "like plucking a fruit from a tree".

It is important to us to constantly monitor the stock of our “sea gardens”. Algae populations are thus monitored and bio-monitored. From our point of view and according to our studies, this method stands out as the most practical and sustainable alternative. Every year since 1996 we have been working on the same seaweed meadows without observing any significant changes in their density

Evidence and records of seaweed harvesting in other areas of the world confirm that using the manual methodology versus mechanizing the same process is much less aggressive, both for the seaweed itself and for the marine ecosystem in general.

In the paper “Sustainable harvesting of wild seaweed resources” (European Journal of Phycology, 2017) by Michéal Mac Monagail et al. some cases of mechanical seaweed harvesting carried out in a number of countries such as Canada, Iceland, Norway, France (Brittany) and the USA (Maine) are presented.

Photo of seaweed harvest in France by a ship. Seaweed harvest with Scoubidou in France

There are several harvesters, such as in Norway where the first boat specialized in mechanized seaweed harvesting was built in 1969. It can work in shallow waters (>2 meters) using pull and suction mechanisms. Another very similar boat is the so-called French Scoubidou. They are boats that have been used since 1974. They use a kind of hook that, with the help of a rotating rotor, removes the laminarial populations from the substrate, which is then to be towed on board

These mechanized methods make it possible to harvest 50 to 150 tons of algae per day. For comparison, a forager on foot harvests an average of 50 to 100 kg, or a diver working with a handheld device and after selective cutting around 200 to 300 kg.

At that time, with the mechanized process, the resource was so exhausted that the collections were initially rotated and the algae stock could only be used again four years later. In Norway, Per Svendsen of the University of Bergen found in his scientific studies in 1972 that this four-year period was not sufficient for the algae stocks to recover. He recommended extending the rotation period to five years to harvest the same population again.

In Canada, for example, trawling, clearing and suction boats were phased out in 1994 due to unsustainable use and destruction of the ecosystem. They were then replaced by cutting methods that allowed the algae to survive and grow again.

In his essay “La flotille goémonière et l'exploitation du champ de laminaires sur les côtes bretonnes – Essai de synthèse” (IFREMER, 1997) Pierre Arzel clearly shows the indications of the unsustainability of the exploitation of the Laminariales fields in Brittany, created by mechanization with Scoubidous, whose operational behavior of one's fleet develops inappropriately and increases catches of progressive forms. Arzel stresses that algae production is insufficient given this harvest pressure. He raises interesting questions and makes suggestions regarding harvesting methodology. The key may lie in analyzing the tools currently in use and their impact on the seabed. He recommends the sustainable "cut" as a "good guide"

Also in the work "Seaweed industry in France", Seaweed industry in France (Agrocampus Ouest, 2012) by Lucile Mesnildrey et al. it is observed that algal populations subjected to mechanized exploitation by scoubidous take up to four years to regenerate. The macrofauna and flora associated with species, although not directly subjected to mechanized use, are also not recovering.

In contrast, the algal populations subjected to selective manual cutting in the continuous annual collections over the past 20 years have not shown any variation or change. It can be literally concluded that “in this case there is no impact on the ecosystem as the Algamars collectors use knives and sickles to cut the algae above the limited size. And that is exactly what allows the algae to grow again”.

Companies like ours in Galicia are almost unique. We are always firmly committed to preserving the marine environment when managing algae populations. We clearly oppose the introduction of mechanical harvesting techniques. We consider them incompatible with the conservation or sustainability criteria set by environmental regulations such as Red Natura-2000.

At Algamar we are therefore proud of our philosophy and environmental activity. We favor sustainable use and care of what is definitely close to our hearts: namely seaweed and the marine ecosystem.