Unlike dry land, the Jeju Island is little adapted to agriculture due to not much fertile land, so it makes all activities difficult.
Tot alga (Hizikia fusiformis), also known as Tol, grows along the Jeju Island coat, and is one of the most, if not the only, source of income for the small fishing communities on the island.
Tot alga is brown with almost cylindrical leaves reminiscent of tree branches. This resource is managed and looked after on a community level: from times past to today, the Tot harvest together with shellfish and other sea products is distributed among the rest of the community. This way the sharing system has guaranteed not only a source of income but also food sustenance for the less well-off, especially the elderly or in times of dearth. From a nutritional point of view, this alga is quite rich in calcium and protein, useful elements in daily food. The income from gathering shellfish and Tot alga is shared collectively, and regulated by a kind of mutual help pact stipulated among the community fishermen.
It is mostly the part concerning collection and maintenance of the coast that requires more regulations: to make sure the harvest is sustainable, collecting Tot alga at the start of its vegetative cycle is prohibited. Moreover, the rocks it grows on are cleaned by hand according to traditional methods.
After the harvest, the Tot alga is dried and one part is kept aside, while a minimum percentage is intended for local sale.
From March to April, Tot alga is cooked together with rice and served up in a dish called Totbab; during the summer instead, cold soups and salads are prepared with it, or served with Doenjan, a fermented soy paste.
Today this important local resource is at risk due to environmental factors, especially pollution of the waters.