, Volume 204, Issue 1, pp 17–24 | Cite as

Ecological impact of marine plant harvesting in the northwest Atlantic: a review

  • G. J. Sharp
  • J. D. Pringle
Population and community effects of seaweed harvesting


The ecological impact of marine plant harvesting is related to the intensity of exploitation, the harvesting technique, and the vulnerability of the species or habitat to perturbation. In eastern Canada information was available on four levels of impact: long-term changes in the target species and direct loss or damage to non-target species, direct or indirect impact on the habitat or community, indirect effects of changes in habitat or community structure, and trophic level impact. Near monoculture stands of Chondrus crispus have associated with them up to 36 animals species and 19 major species of algae that are vulnerable to removal as by-catch. Indirect effects of changes in macrophyte cover were not observed in fish species utilization of Ascophyllum nodosum beds on rising tides. Subtidal areas devoid of all macrophyte cover had lower levels of the preferred foods for Homarus americanus than kelp-covered areas; however, barren grounds are not created by macrophyte exploitation rates of 20% to 80% in eastern Canada. Long-term harvesting has altered the population structure and population ecology of C. crispus and A. nodosum in some areas. In general both target species and associated communities are resistant to perturbation.

Key words

Ascophyllum Chondrus dragrakes ecological impact harvesting Laminaria seaweed 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • G. J. Sharp
    • 1
  • J. D. Pringle
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Biological Sciences BranchHalifax Fisheries Research LaboratoryHalifaxCanada

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