Atlantic Holdfast is a small company working to sustainably hand-harvest the highest quality sea vegetables from the Gulf of Maine. Our harvesting operation is based on a remote island in outer Penboscot Bay, 7 miles off Stonington, ME, where the strong currents, active surf, and full exposure to the force of the open ocean have allowed these seaweeds to thrive for millenia.
The islands served as seasonal camps for the native Wabanaki people for thousands of years, who came to pursue the abundance of the sea, a pattern of use that continued for centuries after European settlement. One such island outpost has remained in continuous service as a seaward fishing base for local residents since the 1700s, its protected harbor offering safe anchorage for the sail powered fishing fleet that existed into the early 20th century.
Still owned by local residents, it has served as our home base since 2010, providing access to the outer bay where the powerful tides and highly oxygenated water offer the ideal habitat for these delicious wild plants.
The harvest takes place early in the morning, during the lowest tides of the spring and summer months that accompany the new and full moons. We travel in small boats to the kelp beds and exposed ledges to harvest, working at the lowest point of the low tide line where the seaweeds cling to the rocks.
The work is a delicate balancing act between the harvester and the incoming waves, as the plants are briefly exposed between each swell before being covered again by the surf.
We work carefully within this turbulent environment, selectively cutting each variety with specific techniques developed to ensure the long-term health of the individual plants and this unique ecosystem. Once landed the seaweed is immediately hung to dry, reaching a shelf stable condition within 24-36 hours, at which point it stores indefinitely.
Some of the oldest and most resilient organisms on earth, seaweeds have been noted throughout history for their tremendous nutritional and medicinal benefits, their aid in removing accumulated heavy metals from the body, and their use in the treatment and prevention of cancer. There is also evidence indicating their ability to prevent the uptake and absorption of radioactive isotopes released by nuclear facilities during normal operations, and especially in the event of a nuclear disaster.
These “plants” have evolved in one of the most turbulent ecosystems on the planet, and can lend some of their strength and tenacity to our bodies in holding fast during times of stress and transition.