03 Aug 2009

Oh no! Wakame is on a list of “100 of the World’s Worst Invasive Alien Species”

This is a sad sad discovery, as my father-in-law Rich pointed me to this New York Times article:

An Underwater Fight Is Waged for the Health of San Francisco Bay

Christopher Scianni, a California state worker, diving to remove wakame from the bay.

“Every year the damage wrought by aquatic invaders in the United States and the cost of controlling them is estimated at $9 billion, according to a 2003 study by a Cornell University professor, David Pimentel, whose research is considered the most comprehensive…

…Many scientists say that San Francisco Bay has more than 250 nonnative species, like European green crab, Asian zooplankton and other creatures and plants that outcompete native species for food, space and sunlight.

“Here you’ve got a veritable smorgasbord of habitats from shallow and muddy to deep water,” said Lars Anderson, a lead scientist with the United States Agriculture Department. The Oakland port ranks as the fourth busiest in the nation, and ships bring in tiny hitchhikers from across the globe to take up residence in the bay…

…Native to the Japan Sea, wakame has now spread to the Mediterranean and elsewhere along European coastlines, and to New Zealand, Australia and Argentina, where the fetid smell of rotting kelp has kept beachgoers from parts of the coast.

Wakame harms native kelp, mucks up marinas and the undersides of boats, and damages mariculture like oyster farming. “

It surprises me that with such an abundance of wakame we are still being sold the farmed stuff. If the whole of Asia started using wild wakame, imagine the dent it could make.

There could be another side to this phenomenon. It is well known amongst herbalists and especially pharmaceutical companies, that plants, fruits and vegetables that are needed at particular times to cure diseases or for boosting immunity always tend to spring up at the exact times when you need them and in the regions where the ailments occur. It is a mystifying phenomenon that has gone on for centuries and possibly longer than we’ve been recording. For example recently teasel root was recently discovered as a powerful treatment for Lyme disease that has even cured many, and it just so happens to grow along the sides of the road as a weed in the very areas where you get bitten by the Lyme carrying ticks.

Wakame is a well known “superfood” rich in rare minerals and vitamins that our bodies are often depleted of due to our strange western diets. It wouldn’t surprise me if pharmaceutical companies suddenly find a use for them as they often use exotic plants (particularly from the Amazon) as the main ingredients to some of the most well known powerful drugs.

It will be interesting to see what develops from here…

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