Scots scientists drive seaweed safeguards

GlobalSeaweedSTAR researcher Rema Sibonga examines farmed seaweed samples in Bohol, Philippines (photo: Dr Valeria Montalescot)

OBAN based researchers are advising world leaders on how to safeguard the global seaweed industry, which is now worth about $5 billion annually.

The Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS) recently delivered a presentation to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), highlighting biosecurity issues in the fast growing sector.

The FAO now intends to include seaweed alongside marine animals, such as finfish and shrimp, in producing advice on biosecurity, which aims to prevent the spread of disease and pest species.

Seaweed had not been included in the initial biosecurity planning until the presentation, made at a recent FAO meeting in Paris, by SAMS scientist Prof Elizabeth Cottier-Cook.

Cottier-Cook is the leader of the GlobalSeaweedSTAR project, a UK funded research effort to improve the sustainability of the global seaweed growing industry.

The FAO is currently developing a management framework for aquaculture biosecurity, the Progressive Management Pathway, alongside representatives of the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), the World Bank, the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD) and more than 25 other countries.

Seaweed aquaculture biosecurity will now be the subject of an FAO meeting in Trondheim in August, overlapping with the end of the Aqua Nor exhibition.

From this meeting, Prof Cottier-Cook and her team are hoping to produce a technical document on seaweed biosecurity for FAO approval.

The seaweed industry is largely based in south-east Asia, China and west Africa, sustaining coastal communities in many developing countries.

Production more than doubled in size globally, from 13.5 million tonnes in 1995 to 30 million tonnes in 2016.

As a food, seaweed is a rich source of micronutrients (iron, calcium, iodine, potassium and selenium), vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids.

Prof Elizabeth Cottier-Cook of SAMS 

Prof Cottier-Cook, who has previously authored an international policy brief for the seaweed cultivation industry, said: ‘Although a traditional means of cultivation in many parts of the world, production of seaweed has grown exponentially over the past 30 years.

‘The inclusion of seaweeds in the FAO Progressive Management Pathway is a huge step forward for the industry, which currently suffers from pest and disease outbreaks.’

To find out more about the GlobalSeaweedSTAR project visit: www.globalseaweed.org or watch the project video https://youtu.be/kc6k-t9R_LE