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Earthwatch research into the sustainability of carrageenophyte seaweed farming

Earthwatch research into the sustainability of carrageenophyte seaweed farming

Overview

Earthwatch collaborated with a leading global provider of food and beverage ingredients to investigate the sustainability of seaweed farming for the production of carrageenan. Carrageenan is a gelling ingredient that is increasingly being used within the food, drink and pharmaceutical industries.

What we did

We conducted a desk-based research study in partnership with Scripps Institute of Oceanography, which explored the impacts that carrageenophyte seaweed farming has on the marine environment and local communities.

Outcomes and Recommendations

Our research had two key findings:

  1. If designed sustainably, seaweed farming can have positive impacts on carbon sequestration, water quality and livelihoods.
  2. The impacts, specifically to biodiversity and habitats, are localised and depend on specific issues, and as such, local research is needed to determine constraints, impacts and required actions.

Earthwatch proposes six key recommendations for more sustainable farming practices. These actions can be adopted by carrageenophyte seaweed producers globally to ensure more sustainable practices:

  1. Use sandy-bottom habitats devoid of other plant life to minimise impacts on existing habitats and create new ones.
  2. Use native seaweed species. This maintains genetic integrity and reduces the likelihood of habitat invasion.
  3. Farms should contain genetic diversity to reduce vulnerability to disease and climate change impacts.
  4. Locate farms in lower- to middle -income countries to maximise the socio-economic benefits on the communities/countries.
  5. Consider additional benefits of farms in selecting their location (areas where water quality and pH benefits would add socio-economic value).
  6. Location-specific validation is needed to determine constraints, impacts and required actions.

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