Science & Nature

May 1, 2017

Other Side of Aquaculture

In 2016 the global seaweed trade grossed more than the world's production of lemons and limes, for example. Seaweed gathering doubled on the last decade and nowadays we even have real underwater farms that try to invigorate and capitalize on a product that most of the time has been ignored or relegate to sushi restaurants, but that besides food products has also been sued in cosmetic and pharmaceutical products, with an ever growing demand.

The truth is, at the rate fishing stagnates and exhausts, with a growing number of seafood species at the blink of extinction, aquaculture has been growing to compensate simultaneously unemployment – with the scarcity of fish we have more and more fishermen turning to seaweed farming and gathering – and a hypothetical food shortage, being far easier to replace and manage produce taken from seaweed farms than to raise the threaten seafood populations on the wild or on captivity.

The seaweed farm industry already counts as 49 percent of the whole maritime production, grossing 6,4 billion dollars in 2014, which rose to 6 billion on 2016 and is estimated to reach 22 billion on 2024. It is a rather rentable option, ever more prevalent on the economies of developing countries and emergent economies, with research already made available by the United Nations University on the possibility of expanding and transform this industry on something fully sustainable that can even be beneficial for the environment of the already depleted oceans of the world.

An example of success is the Maine Fresh Sea Farms, on Walpole, United States, founded by Seth Barker, Betta Stothart and Peter Fisher. Its farms produce seaweeds on ropes with a range of 60 to 180 meters, growing it on the sea and river beds as one would grow several rows of crops on dry land. The company has focused its production on three different types of seaweeds, shipping it to restaurants all over the United States territory.

Besides the typical rice rolls we're used to see on sushi restaurants, the seaweeds are also appropriate to be ingested on soups, stews and even salads, with huge benefits on flavour as well as in health.

The company produces both fresh and dried seaweeds, biologically, meaning, there are no chemicals that may temper with its natural characteristic, given that seaweeds are considered as a "superfood" thanks to its high number of micronutrients, as well as vitamins A and C and its high volumes of calcium, protein and iodine.

The company, founded on 2014, chose to establish its farms at the Clark Cove bay, due to its pristine protected waters. This bay benefits with the presence of several tidal waves and has a notable history as a place of choice for experiences on the field of aquaculture, dating back to 1975, when the first mussels farm was established there. Its three owners rely on the experience on their previous careers on maritime biology, seafood trading and sustainability projects to assure that, together, they managed to take this venture to a safe harbour, with the purpose of providing all interested parties with a source of high quality "sea vegetables".

Aquaculture became popular since 2007, but so far its main focus has been the domestication of seafood species threaten or at risk of extinction on the wild. As the worlds populations becomes more and more demanding regarding the quality of what's in their plates, the seaweed have been gaining an ever more relevant position, being at the blink of becoming more than half of the whole worlds aquaculture with benefits, both for "sea farmers" and consumers alike. 

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