Seaweed Harvesting: Why Seaweed is Losing its “Green”


Seaweed has always been one of the most sustainable harvesting practices in recent memory, and has even been hailed as “a way to solve world hunger.”

The benefits of eating seaweed are plentiful – which is why I was surprised to see industry leaders calling for more regulations on its cultivation.

Seaweed is currently a widely popular consumer product and more and more people have been eating it to replace less renewable resources in their diet. It’s also become a source of income, as well as food, for poverty-stricken coastal communities dealing with the consequences of overfishing. Seaweed also benefits the fish populations because it acts as a nursery ground.

However, as history does repeat itself, bad things can occur when booming industries are not properly regulated – and this is precisely what’s happening in the seaweed harvesting industry.

Seaweed harvesting has already caused a plethora of problems, including fears of introducing invasive species, mono cropping, and the transfer or pests and plant diseases.

According to Elizabeth Cottier-Cook, the lead author and researcher at the Scottish Association for Marine Science, rapid expansion and lack of regulation in agriculture enterprises have lead to similar problems in the past.

“There’s very little regulation,” Cottier-Cook told Reuters. “You can take a plant from the Philippines and plant it in East Africa. There are pests, there are pathogens that can go along with that plant. There is no quarantine.”

As a sustainable aquaculture advocate, I hope that policy makers and scientists will be able to draft effective regulations and a proper policy can be put in place to reduce the overfishing of our seas, and now, the over-harvesting of seaweed.

Are you interested in sustainable aquaculture? Learn more about Caribbean Sustainable Fisheries, here.