Hopes for expansion in Tasmanian seaweed industry under marine plant plan

[Australia] The marine plant, which is used in food, health products and fertilisers, is a $3 million industry in Tasmania annually with 80 licence holders.

Seaweed scientist Craig Sanderson believes it could be worth much more.

“Tasmania’s the best place to harvest seaweed because the cooler the waters the greater the biomass of seaweed, and there are lots of varieties down here and Tasmania obviously has got the clean, green image,” Dr Sanderson said.

Mekabu which is part of the undaria seaweed is said to have antiviral properties.
Supplied: Kai Ho

“There is the potential for a significant industry, possibly as big as the salmon industry.”

The marine plant management plan will include the introduction of a fee structure and electronic data systems to identify key harvest areas.

The Government said the plan would give certainty to producers and help grow the industry sustainably.

Dr Sanderson runs Tasmanian Sea Vegetables with James Ashmore selling wakame, an introduced invasive seaweed undaria, to health food shops and restaurants.

Mr Ashmore said there were no limits on harvesting undaria because it was an introduced species, but more work was needed on the culturing of native plants which could not yet be harvested in commercial quantities.

“This is a really good first step in developing a seaweed industry and a culture around it rather than just having it as a boutique sideline,” Mr Ashmore said.

“Tasmanian seaweed has good reputation but the market has been slow to take off.

‘We’ve been working with chefs tirelessly to get it onto their menus but it’s early stages yet.

“We’ve got wonderful plants in wonderful clean waters, we don’t have a nuclear plant down the road … it’s just a matter of of educating.”

Dr Sanderson said the presence of iodine in seaweed provided yet another potential market.

“There is a reasonable amount of iodine in seaweed and in Tasmania we are generally iodine deficit, that’s why they add iodine to salt and that could be obtained form seaweed.”

Dr Sanderson said the company could not keep up with demand for wakame but there were restrictions in terms of harvesting.

Red lettuce seaweed is an introduced species growing in Tasmania but is highly nutritious.
Supplied: Kai Ho

“We are restricted to one licence for most of east coast, so we can harvest outside that licence area. Most that we harvest comes from the Bruny Island area,” he said.

“If local species were opened up a bit more through harvest or culture it would enable to us to expand.”

 

Photo: Undaria seaweed growing in south-east Tasmania is dried and sold as wakame. Supplied: Kai Ho

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