Researchers: possible cash crop in Galveston seaweed

GALVESTON – Texas A&M Galveston researchers studying how to manage the island’s seaweed think it could become an edible cash crop. Waves of Sargassum seaweed stain Galveston sand as far as you can see.

“It’s uncomfortable,” said Jorge Quazada, a tourist.

Its stench may not impress tourists, but Sargassum’s potential nutritional value could clear beaches.

“The challenge is just making (the seaweed) to where it is palatable,” said Robert Webster, a Texas A&M Galveston PhD candidate and researcher studying Sargassum uses.

Webster thinks we can eat it.

“At some point in time, yes,” Webster said. “I think that there will be some value to this,” Webster said.

Just the thought turned some stomachs, others want to hear more.

“If it’s got some nutritional value and it’s not too bad I guess we’d try it maybe,” said Tim Taylor, another tourist.

“(Our research team) had elderly lady come up while we were doing research and she was actually gathering some to go cook it and we all kind of looked at ourselves and she took it in and cooked it and brought it back out to us to eat,” Webster said. “I put it my mouth and I swallowed it and nothing bad happened.”

Researchers said seaweed is high in iron and calcium. However, Galveston’s seaweed is also loaded with iodine, something Webster’s team is working to remove. If it works, the city’s beach raker machine could help get around laws preventing people from moving seaweed off Texas beaches. The raker picks up seaweed without sand.

“That was the point of the restrictions of removing it from the beach, it typically had too much sand in it and you were hauling too much sand away from the beaches and if you can come up with a way that all you take away is the Sargassum, then I think people would re-think those policies,” Webster said.

It is a slow process. The research is also far from certain. Still, researchers see potential.


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