Flying Fish

Adventures with Algae
by Nicole Carlozo -- October 26th, 2011

France Part II. A trip to Ouessant Island, the Roscoff Marine Lab, and two algae processing facilities. MMMmmmm, smell that algae!
Ouessant Island
Ouessant Island

Day 3: October 11th

Nothing like a mid-morning algae walk to start off the day…

 

The beaches of Ouessant are covered in various species of algae, an exploited resource by the locals.

The beaches of Ouessant are covered in various species of algae, an exploited resource by the locals.

On a quiet, cloudy morning early in the week, we traveled through the rough Atlantic waters on a ferry from the coastal town of Conquet. Our destination: Ouessant Island and the town of Lampaul, where we hoped to see some of France’s plentiful algae. Ouessant is a small, sparsely populated island (about 800 people) situated off of Northwest France.

Up to 12 species of algae are found along the island coast, all of which are used by locals in cooking or food processing. Every species has a use! On our algae hunt, we passed by a central church, as well as some shops and restaurants, but mostly the town was quaint and quiet. We never would have guessed what awaited us along the shore.

View of a Ouessant Bay where algae is harvested.

View of a Ouessant Bay where algae is harvested.

With help from a guide, we located an algae-covered beach and searched for the various brown, green, and red species common in the area. Most of the brown algae is used by locals in place of aluminum foil to wrap fish and meat when cooking, but some is eaten (apparently, kids love the “spaghetti algae”). Thus far, a primarily local market for the resource exists, so anyone can scour the beaches and collect as much algae as they can carry.

After lunch (no algae was consumed), we traveled to higher ground in search of a bird’s eye view of the bay, where red algae is captured and grown for use in cosmetics by the local company NividiSkin. We then visited NividiSkin’s small processing lab, which partners with outside companies (such as L’Oreal) in processing algae for diet pills and cosmetics. The company itself employs just seven people and produces a moisturizing lotion called “Baume Tempete,” which is made from the brown algae Ascophyllum nodosum.

Day 4: October 12th

For the Love of Marine Labs

Exploring the Roscoff Marine Lab

Exploring the Roscoff Marine Lab

The sun was nowhere in sight when we pulled into the Roscoff Marine Lab parking lot and piled out of our massive white van. But the sun wasn’t required for our morning activities. We were soon ushered into a spacious conference room for talks by two Roscoff faculty members.

We began the morning learning about invasive species from Dr. Frédérique Viard. It seems, no matter the country, invasive species remain a never-ending uphill battle.

The Champeaux honeycomb worm reef

The Champeaux honeycomb worm reef

The two main causes of invasives’ spread include maritime traffic and aquaculture; and Brittany has a long history of shellfish culture. Following the invasive species lecture, we heard from Dr. Eric Thiébaut on invertebrate larval dispersal and management of the honeycomb worm in Mont-Saint-Michel Bay.

Sabellaria alveolata, also known as the honeycomb worm, is a small polychaete that creates and lives within sand tube structures. The worms continually add to their homes, essentially forming a reef that provides habitat and a unique substratum for others species. There are only two reefs in the Mont-Saint-Michel Bay: The Champeaux reef and the Sainte-Anne reef. Basically, larvae dispersal and retention is influenced by tidal currents, which trap larvae in the bay and allow the reefs to grow and thrive.

We emerged from the conference room just as the sun made its appearance and spent the remainder of the afternoon exploring the Roscoff Marine Lab and surrounding town. And of course, we made a quick trip to Algoplus, a local algae cannery where we sampled algae spreads, learned about the algae collection and canning process, and browsed through their numerous algae products (from tea and pâté, to soap and bath salts).

Finally, to capture the spirit of this coastal town, we had dinner at La Moule au Pot, where many mussels were consumed. Mine were flavored with apples and cider – delicious!

View of Roscoff from the bridge.

View of Roscoff from the bridge.

 

 

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