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via Scottish Association for Marine Science

UK - Encouraging coastal communities to engage with seaweed aquaculture

A new guide is encouraging coastal communities to consider the the potential impacts - both positive and negative - of seaweed aquaculture sites in their local areas.

The guide - which was commissioned by the Scottish charity, the Sustainable Inshore Fisheries Trust (SIFT) - warns against “significant risks if the industry is allowed to expand without taking sufficient account of the potential effects on marine ecosystems or the consequences for other legitimate uses of the marine environment”.

The document notes a growing interest in seaweed cultivation, in particular of kelp species using pre-seeded longlines, around the coasts of Scotland. While the market is in its infancy, these seaweed species can be used for a variety of purposes, including human consumption, animal feed, biofuel, fertiliser, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals.

“Since November 2018, applications have been submitted to grow and harvest seaweed in an area covering more than 2 million square metres of the Scottish marine area and the sector is expected to continue growing,” according to the report.

The first part of the guide aims to “help local communities to understand how proposals for seaweed cultivation in their area might impact upon the marine environment and other marine activities” and also “highlights the types of questions that individual stakeholders or communities may want to ask about proposals to develop seaweed cultivation in their local area”.

Potential benefits

The guide looks at the potential benefits of seaweed aquaculture, which include provision of habitats and ecosystem services for a range of marine species and its use in integrated multi-trophic aquaculture (IMTA) systems in order to absorb a range of excess nutrients from finfish farms. It also mentions the possible carbon sequestration that can be achieved by seaweed farms, but cautions that “the long-term benefits are significantly dependent upon the fate of the seaweed after it has been harvested”.

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