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Seaweed Summer Foraging

Food

Background

Presenter: Chris Rockley – Experienced Forager and Natural Science communicator.

Chris has been running Seaweed rambles since 2017 in Hobsons Bay and the South coast. The first one was with POW (Permaculture Out West) and have been run seasonally up till last year when she moved to Portland.

Chris comes from a lineage of Finnish lake fishermen and has been interested in seaweed and sea-life from a very early age. Along with Weed foraging she runs workshops to teach more about nature through illustration – www.chrisrockley.com

Have you eaten seaweed before?

You’d be surprised how many products have seaweed as an ingredient. Most of you would’ve eaten Agar agar. This is a jelly like additive rich in iodine used in soups, preserves, ice cream, sauces, custard and puddings.

WHAT IS SEAWEED?

Algae – Eukaryotic & photosynthetic organisms that live in water. They reproduce from spores and from pieces. The study of algae is called Phycology. They reproduce asexually by fission (splitting), budding and fragmentation or by zoospores.
Algae can be grouped into three colour bands GREEN, BROWN and RED

GREEN (Chlorophyta) – Found in both saline and fresh water or both in brackish water. Found in warmer or temperate climates, or in shallow water in cooler areas. Need light to Photosynthesise. Found in intertidal and rocky outcrops. Food for many animals.
They store food as starch and some fats or oils like plants.

BROWN (Phaeophyta) – Contain fucoxanthin (gives it the brown colour) and fucoidan (anti-cancer properties) and live in colder waters. The largest and fastest growing.

RED (Rhodaphyta) – Colour comes from phycobiliproteins, can be browner near the shore. Food source for herbivores such as fish, crustaceans, worms and gastropods. Slow growing, reproduce both asexually and sexually. Have 3 important chemicals in their cell walls including agar, carrageenan and gelans.

Corallines: Red, can be ground down for a calcium powder. Most encrusting and rock-like and play an important role in the ecology of coral reefs.

Sea Grass: True Plant. One of the best protections we have against coastal erosion.

Ecological Role of Seaweed in the Bay

Seaweeds provide habitat and food for other aquatic life, absorb nutrients and pollution, and reduce wave impact onshore.

The main benefits of a healthy algae system are biodiversity, food, oxygen, nutrient cycling, shelter, carbon storage, habitat corridors, livelihood, water quality and climate resilience.

EDIBLE SEAWEEDS OF PORT PHILLIP BAY

Commercial viability
Brown – Japanese kelp, common kelp (ecklonia radiata)
Red – Gracilaria – agar, Asparagopsis taxiformis – cattle methane reduction trials,
Green – Ulva sp. and Caulerpa sp. (not all edible)
Bay Restoration and revegetation – Crayweed (Phyllospora), Sea grass meadows (Zostera, Posidonia)

Seasonality
Like plants, algae can appear in greater numbers seasonally, determined by the changing water temperature.
Summer – Greens, some browns
Autumn – Most browns, some greens (Sea grapes)
Winter – Mostly browns (common kelp, wakame) and Reds (porphyra)
Spring – Reds, Green and some browns

Seasonal Algae

What is found in Summer?
Brown: Common Kelp, Neptunes necklace, Cystophora, Bull Kelp
Red: Sea Moss, Red Hook weed,
Green: Sea Lettuce, Gutweed, Sea Rimu, Velvet Horns

Edibility test

There are three Main tastes to look for. The first is Peppery. Pacific islanders don’t eat peppery tasting seaweed. One exception is Pepper dulse. Most pepper tasting plants and algae are only used as a condiment. The second is Marine (Unami) and the third is Salty.

Texture is something that also comes into play with palette when trying new things. Common textures are Crunchy, Gelatinous, Cellophane and Stringy.

While there are no locally known poisonous algae, there are two signs to look for. The first is a sharp peppery taste and the second is a Milky white substance when snapped – eg. Caulerpa taxifolia (Aquarium escape – Native to the Indian Ocean)
You may have a salt allergy, everyone is different. If you feel any strange effects after trying a seaweed, take a charcoal tablet and rinse your mouth out.

FORAGING TIPS and RULES

WHATEVER YOU FIND ON THE DAY. SNIP ONLY WHAT YOU NEED AND LEAVE THE REST TO GROW ANOTHER DAY.

Best times to see/collect Seaweeds – Low Tide. Look at Willytides and the location you are headed to.
Prepare for a fruitful forage
Check weather and tide times before heading out to forage. Large weather event involving storm water runoff OR Pollution event. The EPA website will give you current water quality. A storm out at sea will be excellent for washed up Seaweed.
Ports can collect heavy metals and pollutants like anti-fouling and fuel. Seaweeds especially browns absorb these pollutants readily. Sewerage outlets, power stations or drains lead to many green seaweeds which like nutrients from these fertiliser sources.
Don’t forget to take a phone or let someone know where you are going if you are heading out alone.

SEAWEED FORAGING LAWS

Know the local laws and check in with the authorities if needed. Hobsons Bay allows 2 shopping bags per person per day for Personal use. If larger quantities are required contact Hobsons Bay council for garden deliveries in trucks.

State Laws

Victoria

You are allowed to collect 2 shopping bags of beach-cast seaweed however you need to let local council know if you are collecting. Not all Councils are okay with it.
However, no collecting in a Marine reserve or low tide level in areas adjacent to a Marine reserve or Coastal Park. Do not collect from a protected seaweed community (ie Giant Kelp forest) or any seaweed while its growing in water. The exception is Sea Lettuce which may be collected from the water, but leave the holdfast (the ‘roots’) and 1/3 of the seaweed to regrow.

New South Wales

20kg of Beach-cast seaweed per day for personal use. Over 20kg needs a permit. Commercial Permits (NSW DPI) can be obtained for Ecklonia radiata, Phyllospora comosa, Ulva intestinalis and Ulva lactuca.
You are NOT allowed to forage in Intertidal Protected areas; RAMSAR wetlands and Aquatic Reserves.

South Australia

There is no limit to beach-cast amounts collected for personal use. No commercial collection unless an exemption is obtained from Primary Industries and Regions SA, Fisheries division.
You are NOT allowed to collect in a Marine Park or Reserve or in any intertidal rocky reef from the high water mark to a water depth of 2 metres.

Tasmania

Personal use – Up to 100kg of beach-cast per person per day ONLY from beaches with public access. Over 100kg requires a license from Tas DPI, Parks, Water and Environment. ONLY from beaches with public access.
You are NOT allowed to collect in Marine Reserves or direct harvesting of native live seaweeds.

Western Australia

Personal use – No limit to beach cast DRIED seaweed. Must contact Dept of Environment and regulation to clear illegal removal activities and satisfy Environmental Protection (Clearing of Native Vegetation) Regulations 2004.
LIVING – License required from WA DPI and Dept of Fisheries PLUS permission from local land managers eg Local GOVT is also required.

Harvesting

Do a quick check of the tide and what is being washed ashore. Use scissors, knife, or pinch off only what you need. Eg. 2 cups Wakame, 2 cups Sea Lettuce; 2 jars worth of Neptunes necklace and a bunch of Saltbush. Make sure you identify edible seaweed correctly.
Be aware of fauna that live on the seaweed. This could be being used for food, breeding or habitat. Shake and pick off invertebrates, preferably onsite. Also, birds prey on critters that survive in the seaweed mounds through the day. Taking too much seaweed from the beach increases erosion in storms. If cutting from living seaweed, leave holdfast and least 1/3 of the plant. Take a little from more than one place.

IDENTIFICATION Books and Sources

Marine Plants of Australia by John Huisman

Photographic Guide to Seashore Life of Australia by Keith Davey.

The Urban Sanctuary – Algae and Marine Invertebrates of Rickets Point Marine Sanctuary by Jessica Reeves and John Buckeridge.

ONLINE RESOURCES
MESA – www.mesa.edu.au
PORT PHILLIP BAY TAXONOMY TOOLKIT – www.portphillipmarinelife.net.au
EFLORASA (Census of South Australian Plants, Algae and Fungi) – www.flora.sa.gov.au/census.shtml
THE SEAWEED SITE – www.seaweed.ie/australia

CITIZEN SCIENCE WEBSITES
INATURALIST – www.inaturalist.org
ATLAS OF LIVING AUSTRALIA – bie.ala.org.au

Gear to take foraging

Most importantly don’t forget your weather protection and a small first aid kit. Your phone with camera or separate waterproof camera and ID Booklet.
If you are foraging for food, you’ll need scissors or knife for a clean cut to the seaweed. A Cliploc Bag with a little water and air in the bag. This will help your collection stay fresh in the fridge. Tupperware containers are great too. Don’t forget a water bottle to hydrate and wash seaweed before testing.
If collecting for the garden, you’ll need a bucket or waterproof bag and gloves.

Cooking with Seaweed

Preparation

Most importantly don’t forget your weather protection and a small first aid kit. Your phone with camera or separate waterproof camera and ID Booklet.
If you are foraging for food, you’ll need scissors or knife for a clean cut to the seaweed. A Cliploc Bag with a little water and air in the bag. This will help your collection stay fresh in the fridge. Tupperware containers are great too. Don’t forget a water bottle to hydrate and wash seaweed before testing.
If collecting for the garden, you’ll need a bucket or waterproof bag and gloves.

Preservation

Dried – Dehydrated (sun, slow oven or dehydrator). Ground into a salt, cut up while dried into soups etc or re-hydrate before using. Will double in size when wet.

Fresh – Cliploc Bag, add a little water to the zipped bag and will stay fresh in the fridge for a day or two. Tupperware containers are good too.

Frozen – Wash, pat dry and bag. Press flat and take air out of bag.

Pickled – Blanch and put in jars in a vinegar mixture.

Using Seaweed in the Garden

Seaweed tonic – Collect algae (no sea grass) in a bucket and wash off sand. Fill a container ¾ full and fill to the top with fresh water. Leave for between 4wks and 3 months. Dilute 1 part solution to 10 parts water before using on plants. Add to plants when under stress like when translocating or replanting. Also spray when frost is about.

Compost refresher – Add collected seaweed to compost and mix in. Will kick start an inactive compost.

Mulch – Add rinsed algae to fallow vegie beds.