Sustainable harvesting of wild seaweed resources
Mac Monagail, Michéal
Critchley, Alan T.
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Mac Monagail, Michéal; Cornish, Lynn; Morrison, Liam; Araújo, Rita; Critchley, Alan T. (2017). Sustainable harvesting of wild seaweed resources. European Journal of Phycology 52 (4), 371-390
Macroalgae have played an important role in coastal communities for centuries. In the past, they have been harvested and gathered from shorelines around the world for traditional uses such as food, animal feed and a crude fertilizer (marine manure). Today, seaweeds are used in a multitude of applications with expanding global industries based on hydrocolloids, cosmetics and food supplements, and also as a potential biofuel source. However, of the approximately 10 000 algal species reported to exist, only a small number are commercially utilized. While representing only a small fraction of total global seaweed production, harvesting and gathering 'wild' seaweeds has had, and continues to have, an integral role in many coastal societies, often being intrinsically linked to the cultural identity of those coastal communities. Today, 32 countries actively harvest seaweeds from wild stocks, with over 800 000 t harvested annually from natural beds. It is vitally important that seaweeds are utilized sustainably and that natural resources are effectively managed by coastal communities with vested interests around the world. As the popularity of seaweeds increases and the use of less traditional species with novel applications comes to the fore, it is critically important to make certain that the sustainability of the resource is ensured given the increased pressures of harvesting. Issues exist regarding ownership of the resource and its over-exploitation, and the implementation of environmentally damaging harvesting techniques must be avoided. Resource scientists, managers, conservationists, governments, and other stakeholders need to be proactive in the sustainable management of these vulnerable, yet valuable, resources.
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