Preserving Marine Habitat through Education and Community Outreach
Rockweed, a seaweed that forms an underwater old-growth forest on the coast of Maine, provides habitat and protection for more than 100 other species including ducks, fish, snails, and lobsters.
Despite its vital ecological role, millions of pounds of rockweed are processed and sold each year to global markets for cosmetics, dog food, agricultural feed, fertilizer, and more. The amount of rockweed cut from the coast of Maine tripled over a recent three-year period. If demand increases, the detrimental effects of cutting more seaweed will likely ripple through the ecosystem and impact local fisheries.
Dr. Robin Hadlock-Seely has a plan to preserve intertidal habitat in Maine and protect rockweed beds from industrial-scale cutting. She has spent the last 10 years working with the Rockweed Coalition, sharing scientific knowledge on the impacts of rockweed cutting while also listening to local fishing communities. Robin mobilized support for a state law that strictly manages the cutting of seaweed in Cobscook Bay by putting conservation areas off limits to harvesting. She also assisted in the development of the “Rockweed Registry,” which allows landowners to register their shores as no-cut areas. Local governments, including the Passamaquoddy Tribe, have joined in placing their tidal shoreland off limits to commercial seaweed cutting.
Through her TogetherGreen Conservation fellowship, Robin was able to add education to Rockweed Coalition activities. Working with local teachers, and using new educational videos and classroom aquaria, she designed lesson plans for K-12 students on the value of seaweed habitat. She also promoted the value of intertidal habitat at the state level with policy makers and published a major scientific paper which has been praised by both federal and state agencies.
Robin’s goal is to inspire shoreland owners, land trusts, and other citizens to make an investment in their local environment by working to conserve marine habitat. By broadening the reach of the Rockweed Coalition, she has enabled the Coalition’s impact to be felt all along the Maine coast.