The seaweed industry is the fastest-growing of all aquaculture sectors, with an annual growth rate of 10% and a value in excess of $5bn. 95% of this cultivation is undertaken by developing countries. Worldwide, seaweed farming provides income to millions of families in rural coastal communities and has enabled women to become economically active, in areas where fewer opportunities exist. Yet outbreaks of seaweed disease and pest infestations are threatening this industry, leading to dramatic (>15%) declines in yield, notably in three major seaweed-producing DAC-list countries, the Philippines, Tanzania and Indonesia, and is having catastrophic socio-economic impacts on the communities reliant on seaweed production. In the Philippines alone, losses over US$ 100 million a year were attributed to disease, representing 15% of the country’s farmed seaweed production, with similar reductions in production seen in Tanzania and Indonesia. Key ecological and socio-economic challenges preventing the sustainable economic growth of this industry were – 36 – assessed and presented in a recent United Nations University Policy Brief and the UN’s ‘First Global Integrated Marine Assessment’. Two major challenges highlighted in these reports were the high vulnerability of crops to disease outbreaks and pest infestation and the lack of biosecurity measures and legislation governing the movement of seaweeds between regions and continents. Red seaweeds, in particular (Kappaphycus and allies), are an iconic example of how one group of seaweeds have been introduced to over 30, predominantly DAC-listed countries worldwide with minimal biosecurity measures in place. RCUK GlobalSeaweed* is a new programme aimed at addressing the acute problem of disease and pest infestations by providing solutions, training and guidelines. It will also launch a GlobalSeaweed* Fund to support novel research opportunity and provide travel bursaries for researchers who can assist us with promoting the sustainable growth of this vital industry in seaweed-producing DAC-list countries.
|Published - Aug 2017