The Global Seaweed SUPERSTAR project — with intentions to find solutions to the biodiversity crisis in global seaweed stocks — has been launched by the Oban-based Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS) and partners in the UK, Asia, and the United Nations University.
Funded by the UK’s Global Centre on Biodiversity for Climate (GCBC), the project will involve some of the world’s most prominent seaweed scientists and industry leaders looking to produce a global strategy, or “Seaweed Breakthrough” to urgently protect wild stocks, to be launched at COP31 in 2026.
Seaweeds are vital for the functioning of the marine ecosystem, supporting an immense biodiversity of marine organisms. There are also more than six million seaweed farmers in 56 countries worldwide who rely on seaweed for their livelihoods. Asia accounts for more than 95% of global seaweed farming.
Yet, wild seaweed communities are predicted to lose up to 71% of their current distribution by 2100, either through overharvesting or climate-driven impacts, such as pollution, invasive species or pest and disease outbreaks.
“Despite their significant ecological and economic importance, wild seaweeds receive minimal or no protection through policies or legislation globally,” said project leader Prof Elizabeth Cottier-Cook, of SAMS.
“We’re not just looking at a looming biodiversity crisis; there is an entire economy that supports millions of families in developing nations. Women, who are integral to seaweed cultivation, are also able to be economically active in this industry, in areas where few opportunities exist.
“By establishing our ‘Seaweed Breakthrough’ based on robust scientific research, we hope to set out policies that can be adopted at the highest intergovernmental level to help safeguard wild stocks and, ultimately, safeguard the global seaweed farming industry.”
GlobalSeaweed SUPERSTAR will also involve a core research team of Professor Juliet Brodie of the UK’s Natural History Museum and Professor Lim Phaik Eem of Malaysia’s University of Malaya, as well contributions from the United Nations University Comparative Regional Integration Studies (UNU-CRIS).
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