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The Boston Globe

Business

Maine’s rockweed harvesters trigger disputes

Clash with critics over ownership, environment

OFF HOG ISLAND, BREMEN, Maine — Doug Wood has pulled all kinds of things from the Atlantic Ocean to earn a living. He has hauled lobster traps, trawled for shrimp, dived for urchins, and dragged for scallops — abandoning each when the market fell or fisheries were depleted. On a recent afternoon, he was at it again, this time on an 18-foot boat outfitted with a roaring machine that sucks seaweed from the sea, slices it into 7-inch strips, and spits the pieces into a huge netted bag.

Wood, 42, is pinning his fortunes on the ubiquitous olive-green sea grass — known as rockweed — that drapes coastlines from New England to Europe. The nutrient-rich kelp is coveted for use in fertilizer and animal feed. Wood also hopes it will help sustain a growing number of Maine seaweed harvesters for years to come.

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