Eco-Conscious Sea Moss: How to Choose Sustainable Products?
Sea moss, also known as Chondrus crispus, Irish moss, Jamaican moss, or carrageen moss, has gained massive popularity for its many health benefits lately. Packed with up to 92 minerals and vitamins, this seaweed is an authentic nutritional powerhouse!
But as demand grows, sea moss production's sustainability and environmental impact becomes of primary importance.
This article explores three main methods of sea moss production: wildcrafted, pool-grown, and ocean-farmed. We will examine the processes involved in each method and discuss their pros and cons concerning sea moss quality, safety, nutritional profile, and sustainability.
Careful consideration of sea moss production methods is vital to maintain the ecological balance and availability of sea moss while meeting the growing demand for this all-natural health supplement.
Related article: 18 Benefits of Sea Moss For Your Health & Wellness!
Wildcrafted Sea Moss
Wildcrafted sea moss is harvested directly from its natural marine habitats, where it has grown without human intervention. Sea moss naturally grows along the rocky coasts of the Atlantic Ocean, especially in Northern Europe, Ireland, and the Caribbean region.
For example, Organics Nature's sea moss is wildcrafted in Saint Lucia, an Eastern Caribbean island where sea moss is known to be of the highest quality.
Wildcrafted sea moss not only stands out as the most environmentally friendly variety but also boasts the highest nutrient content due to its exposure to the marine ecosystem. In fact, it contains way more minerals and vitamins than pool-grown sea moss and, consequently, is much more beneficial for health.
Related article: Real Vs. Fake Sea Moss, What’s The Difference?
How is wildcrafted sea moss harvested?
Wildcrafted sea moss is harvested on shorelines and beaches. When it is done responsibly and manually (without machines), the process of catching sea moss in the wild is the most ethical.
Harvesters familiar with the coastal areas and the growth patterns of sea moss identify suitable patches where it naturally thrives. These patches are often found on rocks, submerged structures, or the seabed.
After harvesting, wildcrafted sea moss is typically brought to land or a processing facility, where it undergoes rinsing, cleaning, and drying processes before being packaged or transformed into a gel.
Related article: 8 Ways To Use Sea Moss Gel in Your Daily Routine!
Wildcrafted sea moss is considered the most natural and unprocessed form of sea moss.
Regarding environmental impact and sustainability, it's essential to understand that the harvesting process can vary depending on the location, harvesting regulations, and the harvesters' expertise.
The main environmental risk with wildcrafting sea moss is over-harvesting because it can lead to ecological imbalance and depletion of sea moss populations.
However, responsible harvesters prioritize sustainable practices, ensuring they do not over-harvest or damage the natural habitat while collecting sea moss.
The sea moss is collected manually by divers or fishermen. They carefully detach it from the surfaces it adheres to, using their hands or small tools like knives or shears. Only a part of the seaweed is picked up, allowing the rest to regrow without disturbing the ecosystem around it.
To maintain the sustainability of wildcrafted sea moss, harvesters and consumers must support responsible harvesting practices and companies, adhere to local regulations, and promote conservation efforts to protect the marine ecosystems where sea moss grows.
Related article: The Right Way to Use Sea Moss for Weight Loss.
Pool-Grown Sea Moss
Pool-grown sea moss, or fake sea moss, involves cultivating Chondrus crispus in large artificial tanks or pools filled with seawater under controlled conditions. The cultivation process typically includes the following stages:
- Collection of sea moss fragments or spores from natural sources.
- Placement of the fragments or spores in pools or tanks containing seawater.
- Periodic monitoring and maintenance of water quality, light exposure, and temperature to facilitate growth.
- Harvesting the matured sea moss after a specific cultivation period.
The environmental impact of pool-grown sea moss is both positive and negative. Here are the pros and cons to consider:
Positive environmental impacts
- It reduces pressure on natural ecosystems: Pool-grown sea moss cultivation significantly reduces the reliance on harvesting from wild populations. Providing a controlled environment lessens the pressure on natural ecosystems, allowing them to replenish and maintain their ecological balance.
- Conservation of wild sea moss populations: By cultivating sea moss in pools, the demand for wildcrafted sea moss decreases. This reduction in harvesting helps protect and conserve wild sea moss populations, allowing them to recover and thrive undisturbed.
- Prevention of habitat disturbance: Wildcrafted sea moss harvesting often involves physically removing the moss from its natural habitat, which can cause disturbance and damage to the surrounding marine ecosystems. In contrast, pool-grown sea moss eliminates the need for disrupting natural habitats.
But these positive impacts must be balanced with the negative ones pool-grown sea moss can have on the environment. Unfortunately, the disturbances often outweigh the advantages here.
Growing sea moss in giant industrial pools causes the following risks and challenges for the environment:
- Limited biodiversity support: Pool-grown sea moss cultivation occurs in controlled environments lacking the natural ecological diversity of wild habitats. This controlled setting does not provide the same level of support to various marine species that rely on sea moss for habitat or food and disrupts the overall ecosystem balance.
- Energy and resource consumption: The infrastructure and resources required for pool-grown sea moss cultivation, such as tanks, pumps, lighting, and water filtration systems, consume a lot of energy and materials. The production and maintenance of these systems have a huge carbon footprint and environmental impact.
- Potential chemical inputs: To maintain optimal growth and prevent diseases or pests, pool-grown sea moss cultivation requires using fertilizers, pesticides, or other chemical products. These substances have negative environmental consequences, including water contamination and harm to non-target organisms.
- Waste management: Pool-grown sea moss cultivation generates waste materials such as excess nutrients, organic matter, or dead moss fragments. If not properly managed, these wastes lead to water pollution and nutrient imbalances in surrounding ecosystems, impacting water quality and marine life.
- Land use and freshwater consumption: Pool-grown sea moss requires land space for the infrastructure and freshwater resources for maintaining the tanks or pools. Depending on the production scale, this land use and freshwater consumption strain local resources and negatively impact the surrounding ecosystems.
Additionally, it’s important to note that sea moss grown in pools has a very poor nutrient profile compared to wildcrafted sea moss. Indeed, the environment in which sea moss grows is essential to develop its natural properties. Pool farms cannot replicate the back-and-forth motion of ocean waves, rocks, air, sunshine, salt, and other nutrients in the ocean.
Eventually, the sea moss that comes out of pools has nothing to do with wildcrafted sea moss. The quality isn’t there. And neither are the health benefits ...
Related article: The Complete List of Minerals & Vitamins Found in Sea Moss!
Ocean-Farmed Sea Moss: The Most Sustainable Solution?
There's a third way to harvest sea moss that's kind of in-between wildcrafted sea moss and pool-grown sea moss. We’re talking about ocean-farmed sea moss.
Ocean-farmed sea moss is man-grown in the ocean, its natural habitat. Nutritionally, ocean-farmed sea moss is similar to wildcrafted sea moss.
The process involves cultivating the moss directly in its natural marine habitat, with the assistance of structures like ropes or lines to provide support. It typically includes the following steps:
- Attachment of sea moss fragments or spores to ropes or lines.
- Submersion of the ropes or lines in suitable marine areas.
- Regular monitoring and maintenance
Positive impacts on the environment
Farming sea moss in its natural habitat reduces the strain on natural sea moss populations by providing a sustainable cultivation method while not compromising on quality and nutrient composition.
When done correctly, with sustainability measures and eco-conscious farming methods, it is a better alternative to pool-grown sea moss and ensures a more sustainable approach to large production.
- It supports the natural life cycle: Ocean-farmed sea moss is cultivated in its natural marine environment. This approach maintains ecological integrity and supports the natural life cycles associated with sea moss.
- It reduces pressure on wild populations: By cultivating sea moss in ocean farms, the demand for wild harvesting is reduced. This helps protect and preserve wild sea moss populations, allowing them to recover and maintain their ecological balance.
- It enhances marine ecosystems: Ocean farms provide additional surfaces for sea moss to attach and grow. These structures contribute to the overall habitat complexity and benefit other marine organisms that rely on sea moss as a substrate or food source.
- It promotes biodiversity: Ocean-farming sea moss creates shelter and habitat complexity that contribute to increasing local biodiversity and supporting the overall health of marine ecosystems.
Related article: 10 Great Sea Moss Drink Recipes!
Negative impacts of irresponsible farming practices
However, as mentioned above, ocean-farming sea moss requires knowledge and strict sustainability measures to ensure it does not do more wrong than good. If done irresponsibly or without care for the environment, it could also have negative impacts, such as:
- Escapes and genetic interference: Sea moss cultivated in ocean farms can escape into the surrounding natural environment, where it may interbreed with wild populations. This can lead to genetic pollution and alter the genetic diversity of native sea moss populations.
- Nutrient runoff and water pollution: If not properly managed, intensive ocean farming practices can result in nutrient runoff from excessive feed or fertilizers. This runoff can contribute to eutrophication and water pollution, impacting water quality and marine ecosystems near the farms.
- Habitat alteration: Installing ocean farms may involve modifying natural coastal or marine habitats. This alteration can disrupt existing ecosystems, including seafloor habitats and the associated organisms, leading to potential habitat loss and changes in local biodiversity.
- Excessive use of marine space and resources: Ocean farms require designated areas within the marine environment, potentially competing with other marine activities, such as fishing or conservation efforts. Additionally, these farms may rely on resources such as energy, feed, or water, contributing to the overall environmental footprint and strain on marine resources.
Again, the sustainability and environmental impact of ocean-farmed sea moss depends on responsible farming practices, adherence to regulations, and implementing measures to minimize potential adverse effects.
Evaluating each farm's specific practices and considering the broader ecological context is essential in assessing the sustainability of ocean-farmed sea moss.
Organics Nature closely collaborates with the Agriculture Department of Saint-Lucia Island to minimize the impact on the local ecosystem.
Related article: Discover The Power Duo of Black Seed Oil and Sea Moss!