VIU RELEASE: 2014/092
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Friday, December 19, 2014
NANAIMO, BC: A team of researchers from Vancouver Island University (VIU) and the University of Victoria are studying the movement and fate of a seaweed called Mazzaella japonica (MJ), and they are asking for the public’s help.
Since 2007, the BC Ministry of Agriculture has been issuing licences for the harvest of beach-cast seaweed (wrack) between Deep Bay and Bowser.
The target species in the study, MJ, is a Japanese red alga. Like many red seaweeds, MJ is rich in carrageenans, a compound used as a gelling and thickening agent in a variety of food, pharmaceutical and industrial processes.
“While this harvest has raised environmental concerns, the available information to date has been largely based on literature reviews and anecdotal observations,” says Sarah Dudas, a researcher in VIU’s Biology department.
“To investigate the fate and dispersal of this particular kind of seaweed, we are releasing small bundles of the seaweed tied with brightly coloured, non-toxic, biodegradable flagging tape at two sites in the Deep Bay/Bowser region. A total of 100 small bundles will be released at two beaches and the tape will be labeled with special identification numbers.”
Researchers will monitor the beaches on a bi-weekly basis between now and February 9 but if any member of the public happens to see the specially marked bundles while strolling local beaches, they are asked to email email@example.com
“We’d like to know the date, time and location of the sighting, as well as the colour of the flagging tape and identification numbers,” says Dudas.
Information from the study will be used to develop a database and map of the distribution of the beach-cast bundles over time.
Tracking the movement of MJ will help researchers better understand the fate of this red algae within the ecosystem, Dudas adds. Understanding the dispersal patterns of beach-cast seaweed will also contribute to more accurate calculations of the volume of seaweed being washed ashore. Dudas asks members of the public to leave seaweed bundles where they are found. After February 9, researchers will gather up any remaining biodegradable tape left on beaches.