Situation Analysis for Oregon’s Emergent Seaweed Aquaculture Industry Now Available
In response to the world’s growing population and need for food security, aquaculture has become one of the fastest-growing food production sectors (FAO [Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations] 2020). This growth has often been associated with, and in some places has resulted in, negative environmental impacts, including habitat degradation, pollution, and impacts on wild stocks (Naylor et al. 2021). Thus, with this rapid expansion, the challenge is determining how to foster development sustainably and equitably. A growing body of research demonstrates that—if deployed in the right places with the right practices and species—aquaculture can bring benefits to both ocean ecosystems and the communities that rely on them, a concept termed restorative aquaculture (TNC [The Nature Conservancy] 2021).
In addition to food, seaweed aquaculture has the potential to provide other sustainable products for a wide range of industries, livelihoods for coastal communities, and improved ocean health (TNC 2021). Seaweed can be a source of low-carbon food, raw materials, and energy, with product uses including human consumption, animal feed, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, fertilizers, biofuel, and bioplastics (Piconi et al. 2020; McKinley Research Group 2021). Seaweed aquaculture also has the potential to provide seedstock for wild populations, create beneficial habitat, improve water quality, and buffer against localized ocean acidification (O’Shea et al. 2019; Gentry et al. 2020).
Over 90% of the seaweed produced globally comes from the four Asian countries of China, Indonesia, Korea, and the Philippines, where there is a well-established industry for food and hydrocolloids, but the industry is expanding to other regions, such as North America (FAO 2018, 2020). In the United States, sugar kelp is the primary farmed seaweed, with most in-water grow out locations in the Northeast Atlantic and Pacific Northwest. A TNC study by Theuerkauf et al. (2019) identified Oregon, Washington, and Vancouver, British Columbia, as the top marine ecoregions in North America where seaweed aquaculture could be environmentally beneficial, socially acceptable, and economically viable...
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