Seaweed Now a Multi-Billion Dollar Industry, Not as Green as Farmers Claim?
Clean and green innovation in the products and foods we use is a key part in combating climate change. Seaweed seemed to be an easy fix until lack of regulation began harming the Earth rather than helping it.
A recent UN study posted on Science Daily explained the dangers of the rapidly growing, multi-billion dollar industry and discussed the need more regulations. The worldwide explosion of seaweed farming is especially prominent in Asian countries.
Benefits of Seaweed
Seaweed is currently a widely popular consumer product that is being incorporated, in place of more harmful materials, in everything from antimicrobial products to biotechnology. More people have been eating seaweed, partially replacing less renewable resources in their diet.
Poverty-stricken coastal communities dealing with the consequences of overfishing have a new source of income and food. Seaweed is benefiting the fish populations by acting as a nursery ground and indirectly decreasing overfishing.
Healthy seaweed populations in the ocean can directly help with climate change by absorbing excessive amounts of carbon dioxide.
Environmental Seaweed Watch List
The booming industry is causing some unforeseen problems, including worries about mono cropping, introduction of invasive species and transfer of pests and plant diseases. In an extreme case, some coral reefs in Hawaii have been smothered by an Asian seaweed.
"There's very little regulation" lead author and researcher at the Scottish Association for Marine Science Elizabeth Cottier-Cook said to 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."
Previous agriculture enterprises have learned similar lessons about rapid expansion and lack of regulation. Looking to those case studies can help scientists and policy makers draft proper regulations so that the world can reap the benefits of seaweed without further damaging the oceans.