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New policy brief for a booming seaweed industry

Photo credit: garycycles, Flickr, Creative Commons License 2.0
Photo credit: garycycles, Flickr, Creative Commons License 2.0

Drawing on the expertise of 21 institutions worldwide, the UN University's Canadian-based Institute for Water, Environment and Health, and the Scottish Association for Marine Science, a UNU associate institute, have published guidelines for the burgeoning seaweed industry. 

In the last decade, the sector has seen major growth due to the great variety of uses which has been found for seaweed: from food and fertilizer to pharmaceuticals and industrial gels (see also this news article we have summarised on the potential of seaweed use as fodder to reduce methane production in ruminants).

Seaweed production has been seen as a source of sustainable employment in developing and emerging economies. Yet this brief draws parallels between the crop’s rapid rise and that of others, such as banana and shrimp, and the potential pitfalls that may result from a boom in popularity. For example, the lack of diversity in livelihoods because of a sole focus on a profitable cash crop such as seaweed can place individuals and entire communities at risk. Equally, unforeseen environmental destruction may also result if care is not taken to avoid it.

The researchers propose that the main areas in need of attention are:

  • Prevention of the introduction of disease and non-indigenous pests and pathogens
  • Investment in risk assessment and early disease detection
  • Building know-how and capacity within the sector, cross-nationally
  • Cooperative planning to anticipate and resolve conflicts between competing interests in finite coastal marine resources
  • Establishing management policies and institutions at both national and international levels



Elizabeth J. Cottier-Cook, Nidhi Nagabhatla, Yacine Badis, Marnie L. Campbell, Thierry Chopin, Weiping Dai, Jianguang Fang, Peimin He, Chad L. Hewitt, Gwang Hoon Kim, Yuanzi Huo, Zengjie Jiang, Gert Kema, Xinshu Li1, Feng Liu1, Hongmei Liu, Yuanyuan Liu, Qinqin Lu, Qijun Luo, Yuze Mao, Flower E. Msuya, Céline Rebours, Hui Shen, Grant D. Stentiford, Charles Yarish, Hailong Wu, Xinming Yang, Jihong Zhang, Yongdong Zhou, Claire M. M. Gachon. (2016) Safeguarding the future of the global seaweed aquaculture industry. UN University, policy brief

The policy brief can be downloaded here. Read more about this story on Science Daily here.

We also conducted an interview with FCRN member John Forster on marine algae and aquaculture in 2010. You will find it here

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