, Volume 24, Issue 3, pp 409-416
Date: 27 Nov 2011

Management and production of the brown algae Ascophyllum nodosum in the Canadian maritimes

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Abstract

Commercial exploitation of Ascophyllum nodosum (rockweed) along the coast of Nova Scotia began in the late 1950s when it was used as a raw material for manufacturing alginate and “kelp” meal. Today, this resource is used as a biostimulant extract for crops and animal feed supplements and is the main economic resource of the seaweed industry in the Maritime Provinces and Canada. The management of rockweed, by dividing the resource into many sectors, permitted the assessment of yield per unit area of bed. In Nova Scotia, mechanical harvesting of A. nodosum operated on a pulse of 2- to 3-year schedule providing yields of 21.9 to 47.7 wet t ha−1 averaging 35.3 ± 7.6 wet t ha−1. Acadian Seaplants Limited (ASL) has become the dominant player in the region since 1995 with more than 75% of the total biomass under its leases and more than 90% of the total landing of rockweed in the last 13 years. Sustained harvests at ASL leases and under an annual harvest schedule using hand cutting methods have averaged 17.4 ± 2.6 t ha−1. Exploitation rates above 35% of the harvestable crop lead to a pulse harvest strategy and the need to move infrastructure year after year. In New Brunswick, a new approach to management began in 1995 with a regulated 17% exploitation rate. Thus, the yield in that province is 14.3 wet t ha−1. The current summer standing crop for this region has been calculated at 352,723 wet t, covering an area of 4,960 ha, with an average biomass of 71.3 t ha−1. The harvest in the region reached peak landings in 2010 with just over 40,100 t. The consistent yield per hectare of A. nodosum beds is proof of good management practices and an ecologically sustainable harvest in the Canadian Maritimes.