[UK, Global] Scientists from seven international research institutes are to develop a project intended to provide solutions and training in seaweed disease prevention and identification to aid the sustainable growth of this vital industry in developing countries.
The research project, called GlobalSeaweed, is supported by a GBP 5 million budget funded by the United Kingdom.
This initiative is one of 37 projects of the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) and is led by Dr Elizabeth Cottier-Cook of the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS).
“Worldwide, seaweed farming provides income to millions of families in rural coastal communities and provides a source of food. The industry has also enabled women to become economically active in areas where few opportunities exist,” Cottier-Cook pointed out.
The researcher explained that many seaweeds grown in developing countries are intentionally introduced from other parts of the world and they can bring with them a whole host of pests and disease, which go on to have wider environmental consequences.
“We want to train people from seaweed-producing developing nations in how to identify disease, support their efforts in breeding better crops and help shape national and international legislations to improve biosecurity. In turn, we hope that the exchange of information and sharing of best practices on breeding and cultivation techniques will benefit a truly global industry,” Cottier-Cook added.
The key ecological and socio-economic challenges hindering the sustainable economic growth of the seaweed industry were recently identified in a SAMS/United Nations University Institute for Water, Environment and Health (UNU INWEH) Policy Brief led by Dr Cottier-Cook.
Two main challenges highlighted were the high vulnerability of some crops to disease outbreaks and pest infestation and the paucity of biosecurity measures and legislation governing the movement of seaweeds between regions and continents.
Referring to the project, Dr Grant Stentiford of the UK’s Centre for Environment, Fisheries, Aquaculture Sciences (Cefas) stressed it comes at a crucial time in the expansion of the global seaweed aquaculture industry.
Seaweed farming is one of the few industries in Pacific Island Countries and Territories (PICTs) that are potentially export-oriented, culturally and technologically appropriate, and able to provide substantial livelihood benefits to men and women in remote communities.
“Seaweed is ranked one of the highest priority commodities for aquaculture by many PICTs, such as Fiji, Kiribati, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands and Tonga, among others,” commented Dr Ruth Garcia Gomez, an aquatic biosecurity specialist with Pacific Community.
The industry worldwide is worth more than USD 5 billion annually, growing by around 10 per cent each year, and supports millions of families in coastal communities, especially in developing nations, where 95 per cent of the world’s seaweed supply is cultivated.
Seaweed is grown to be eaten and to produce substances such as agar, which has many applications, from cooking to microbiology.
View original article at: SAMS leads global project to ensure seaweed sustainability