Red tape brings to an end dream of Sark seaweed farm

AFTER years of trying to establish a pilot seaweed farm in Sark, the project has been abandoned by its innovator George Clacy.

After years of investing time, energy and money, George Clacy has given up with his plan for a seaweed farm. (Picture by Sophie Rabey, 29100282)
After years of investing time, energy and money, George Clacy has given up with his plan for a seaweed farm. (Picture by Sophie Rabey, 29100282)

He blames red tape from the authorities in Guernsey.,

Mr Clacy argues that seaweed farming is carbon negative, mitigates climate change, replaces acid in the sea with oxygen, offers marine life habitats to improve biodiversity, and protects the sea floor.

Sark fishermen and the Chief Pleas were on-board, with Pot Bay chosen as a location for the pilot.

Seaweed has versatility as a natural fertiliser, slug repellent, moisturiser along with benefits to the economy.

Mr Clacy visited leading seaweed farming researchers at the Scottish Association of Marine Science, as well as others in Holland, France and Denmark to see their methods, gain experience, learn best practice and ensure biosecurity.

‘At Sams, I took up local marine charts, local tidal streams, and local sunshine records. They thought that Guernsey would be ideal with the possibility of two harvests,’ said Mr Clacy.

Spores are attached to underwater ropes to farm seaweed.

Mr Clacy’s initial application to Environment & Infrastructure was more than two years ago.

He has taken on board various requirements with no progress and three lost harvests.

Since it would be a first for the Bailiwick, a trial is necessary.

‘I only applied for a small pilot scheme to determine the viability of a full-scale farm and answer questions of possible weight of harvested seaweed, depth of seed ropes below surface and distance between seeded ropes.’

Now he has again missed the opportunity to collect spores.

In an E&I meeting it was deemed necessary for the chosen location to be photographed by a marine biologist and not any credited local undersea photographer, among other requirements.

‘Although the farm is small and below a cliff, I have to have a person on the cliff for four weeks to record any seal pupping in the area.

‘There is no beach below the cliffs, the farm has no nets, just ropes at 1.5 metres deep and five metres apart. Boats anchoring do more damage.’

The pilot would not involve major works at sea, tamper with shipping lanes, anchorage or crabpots.

In 2016, Mr Clacy obtained a licence to gather seaweed from the beach to produce dry, chemical-free fertiliser and slug repellent, which came with tight restrictions.

One required seaweed to be under six millimetres in size, as larger pieces expand by seven times the volume, which is fatal to hedgehogs, dogs, birds, and cats.

The same year, Mr Clacy enquired about using beach seaweed as a food source, which was rejected on grounds of contaminants such as microglass and microplastics.

‘Before Covid I applied to Jersey, I received immediate help the next day and following day I received all information of departments, rules, and they were willing to assist in any way.

‘In Holland, it was suggested that I form a Dutch company where 100% grants are available for seaweed farming.

‘I declined. As a 48-year resident I preferred Guernsey to receive the benefits.’

‘I followed requirements from Health & Safety, yet I had no help only restrictions. Their advice is that I have my seaweed food products irradiated. What nonsense.’

After years of investing time, energy and his pension savings Mr Clacy has had enough and no longer wishes to proceed.

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