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“From a Sustainable Seafood Interest to Joining the Seaweed Harvest in Maine”

Posted: September 1 2010

A few weeks ago, Rob Cushman led a  seaweed workshop on the coast of Maine during our  3-day Chautauqua.  It was a magical morning, and many people in attendance wanted to know more - more about Rob's background, more about seaweed, more about the harvest.  Rob has written an amazing piece answering all of our questions.  Below is a teaser - you can download the full piece in pdf HERE.

My best food experiences have always involved seafood. I crave that rich, savory rush of amino acids that it has in such abundance. I had a liminal seafood experience in Maine when I was about four and it involved fresh mussels collected a hundred feet from the table. There were adults eating an alien looking piece of flesh surrounding me and I was hesitant to join them. My mother, clever with food psychology, convinced me that mussels would help me grow big muscles. I was in the mix immediately enjoying the mysterious power food and it was the beginning of a serious passion for seafood.I think the other part of the seafood interest came about while working as a divemaster in Cambodia. The experience of observing life on coral reefs tuned me into the beauty and fragility of the ocean. Physically being where seafood comes from has a similar psychological effect to working on a farm where you interact directly with your food source. We witnessed some depressing activities out on our dives. From what we could tell, Cambodian police boats would sell off fishing rights for cigarettes to Vietnamese dynamite fisherman and industrial Thai squid boats. One week a reef was full of fish, the next it was eerily quiet. This demonstrated how the fishing practices of these other countries were significantly more aggressive compared to their Cambodian counterparts. Also, living in a Developing Country sensitizes you to how crucial seafood is as an affordable protein source – fully one in six people around the globe rely on it, not to mention the livelihoods it sustains. My experience in Cambodia was a small glimpse into this growing problem.
I spent the last two years in a graduate program at Tufts University learning about the nightmare that is our food system and all its nutritional and environmental blowback. To a lesser extent, we also discussed solutions. While we focused mostly on sustainable agriculture, I was more often drawn to the less explored arena of sustainable seafood. The more I researched fishing and aquaculture practices the more evangelistic I became about eating proper seafood. My personal angle started out with nutrition but increasingly it is veering towards ocean health.

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