Weekly Overview: Seaweed Farming Industry Advised to Avoid Common Pitfalls

6 September 2016, at 1:00am

ANALYSIS - The rapid growth of the seaweed farming industry means it a could easily and needlessly drop into some of the same pitfalls previously experienced in both agriculture and fish farming.

To help the industry avoid expensive mistakes and pursue best practices, the United Nations University's Canadian-based Institute for Water, Environment and Health, and the Scottish Association for Marine Science, a UNU associate institute, have published policy advice.

The authors say the industry needs to guard against non-indigenous pests and pathogens, to promote genetic diversity of seaweed stocks and to raise awareness of mistakes in farm management practices (such as placing the cultivation nets too close together, making the crop more vulnerable to disease transfer and natural disasters).

In a nutshell, the areas of key importance to the industry are: Biosecurity, investing in risk assessment and early disease detection, building know-how and capacity within the sector,
cooperative planning to anticipate and resolve conflicts between competing interests in finite coastal marine resources and establishing management policies and institutions at both national and international levels.

In other news, Portugal's Ministry of Marine Affairs is looking to double the country's aquaculture production by 2020 and treble it by 2023 through the entry into force of a set of measures.

And, in the UK, the government has announced plans to ban the sale and manufacture of cosmetics and personal care products containing microbeads in order to protect marine life.

Each year billions of tiny beads end up in the sea from a range of products such as face scrubs, toothpastes and shower gels. These beads build up in the marine environment and can be swallowed by sea life, including fish and crustaceans.

Twenty-five UK cosmetics and toiletries companies, such as Unilever, have already taken steps to voluntarily phase out microbeads from their products. Waitrose has announced they will stop stocking such products by the end of September.

Manufacturers are exploring natural alternatives, including nut shells, salt and sugar, which have the same exfoliating properties but do not pose a threat to the environment.

The government will consult industry, environmental groups and other relevant parties to establish how and when a ban could be introduced, aiming to change legislation next year.