Industry State of Play

In this context, 'seaweed' denotes macroalgae, marine plants that photosynthesize and reproduce without flowers. Unlike microalgae, which are not visible to the naked eye, macroalgae are easily visible and typically grow anchored to the seabed or reef substrates

Seaweed has the potential to help address some of the world’s most pressing challenges. It plays a crucial role in healthy food systems—that is, healthy people, a healthy planet, and a healthy economy. Seaweed can be used as a sustainable, nutritious food source for humans and animals, help enrich soils and complement terrestrial fertilizers by boosting plant nutrition, and be a source of innovative materials ranging from plastic substitutes to sustainable building bricks. By providing natural habitat and food for marine life, seaweed can help restore ocean biodiversity. It can help re-oxygenate and de-acidify surrounding waters and reduce ocean pollution by removing excess nutrients, often the result of terrestrial runoff. It has multiple applications in medicine, packaging, and textiles. Seaweed cultivation and transformation can be a source of alternative livelihoods for fishers, especially women, building the resilience of coastal communities by providing new sources of employment and revenue. Important research is underway on seaweed’s potential to mitigate climate change through the reduction of ruminant methane emissions and atmospheric carbon dioxide removal.

Increasing the growth of seaweed farming up to 14% per year would generate 500 million tons of dry weight by 2050, adding about 10% to the world’s present supply of food, generating revenues and improving environmental quality.

Reaching a global level of 500 million tons of seaweed production would assimilate 10 million tons of nitrogen from seawater, equaling some 30% of the nitrogen estimated to enter the ocean, and would sequester 15 million tons of phosphorous or nearly a third of the phosphorus produced in fertilizers. 

Production of 500 million tons of seaweed would absorb 135 million tons of carbon, about 3.2% of the carbon added annually to seawater from greenhouse gas emissions, offering the potential of using carbon credits to improve the profitability of seaweed businesses. (World Bank). 

Global Seaweed Coalition  

The Global Seaweed Coalition was created as an action point following the issuance of the Seaweed Manifesto, which outlines the vision for seaweed cultivation as an important solution to many of the world’s most pressing challenges including global warming, global hunger and biodiversity loss. The Global Seaweed Coalition, which operates under the auspices of the UN Global Compact has gathered over 1,000 seaweed stakeholders. The coalition has forged important partnerships with the FAO to develop a global food safety regulation for seaweed, with the World Bank, with UNEP, with the WWF and many other of the world’s leading organizations. The coalition has raised visibility for seaweed-based solutions with participation in major events including COP26, COP27, the UN Ocean Conference 2022, the UN Food System Summit, and the Committee on Food Security. The coalition has also helped drive action and growth within the seaweed with the creation of a seaweed community that offers online tools to map the market and increase collaboration. 

In addition to its own work, the Global Seaweed Coalition has financially supported 1,2 million EUR to  24 projects aimed at accelerating change and attracting investment in the seaweed industry. In 2023, the Coalition will operate under the auspices of the Ocean Stewardship Coalition to scale its local and global capacities.

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