New guidelines for the creation of a sustainable Scottish seaweed industry

The first foundations of a policy to encourage a profitable and sustainable seaweed industry have been published by the Scottish Government.

Commercial seaweed cultivation is a multi-billion bound business, especially in countries such as China, Korea and Indonesia where it provides a very good income for poor rural communities.

Photograph by: Helen WilkinsonSeaweed on Portuairk beach

In recent years other countries in South America and East Africa have joined in the rush to cultivate seaweed leaving the UK, much of Europe and North America in their wake.

Although Scotland has a rich history of seaweed harvesting, going back as as the 17th century, usually by crofters and remote island communities it is only now being considered as viable business on an industrial and national scale.

Scientists have proclaimed seaweed as a “superfood” due to its rich iodine and calcium content along with numerous other natural antioxidants, minerals and amino acids.

In addition to being a healthy source of human food seaweed is now also in great demand as an ingredient for gin, as a potential biofuel and for inclusion in skincare products, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, industrial adhesives and even paint.

“We are starting to see the growth in seaweed as a commercial product, used in a huge range of items including food, cosmetics and fertilisers,” said Fergus Ewing, Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy.

“We know the west coast of Scotland is the perfect environment for seaweed cultivation and, although the industry is still in its infancy, indications suggest there may be significant economic opportunities ready to be developed in this area.”

The Scottish Government’s new Cultivation Policy aims to provide clarity over where seaweed may be grown and what kinds of developments will be approved.It also sets out the framework concerning the environmental impacts of seaweed farms, including requirements to mitigate any adverse environmental impacts and ensure only native species are cultivated.

“Over the last couple of years we have seen a growing interest in the cultivation of seaweeds for a variety of uses. The publication of the Seaweed Cultivation Policy Statement will start to give this industry, which is very much in its infancy, much needed guidance and clarity about setting up a seaweed farm,” said Dr Michele Stanley FRSB, Centre Lead for Marine Biotechnology at the Scottish Association for Marine Science.

“It will hopefully help to encourage the expansion of commercial seaweed farming in a sustainable and environmental friendly manner.”

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