Seaweed Farming – Seaweed Cultivation: Potential, Significance

In this article, You will read Seaweed Farming – Seaweed Cultivation: Potential, Significance in India -for UPSC.

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Seaweed Farming

  • Seaweed farming or kelp farming is the practice of cultivating and harvesting seaweed.
  • In its simplest form, it consists of the management of naturally found batches.
  • In its most advanced form, it consists of fully controlling the life cycle of the algae.

Seaweeds

  • Seaweed is plant-like organisms, playing a key ecological role in coastal ecosystems.
  • Seaweed is the common name for countless species of marine plants & algae that grow in the ocean as well as in rivers, lakes, & other water bodies.
  • Like plants, they use light to fix atmospheric carbon dissolved in water. Macroalgae are amongst the most powerful carbon-fixing organisms on earth. Their size ranges from a few millimetres up to 50 metres.
  • They are macrophytic which means they live in water or moist land surfaces.
  • They generally grow in the shallow waters in the tidal zone.
  • Some seaweeds are microscopic, such as the phytoplankton that lives suspended in the water column.
  • Some are enormous, like the giant kelp that grow in abundant “forests” from their roots at the bottom.
  • Seaweeds exhibit the highest photosynthesis efficiency due to moist conditions.
  • They contribute to about 50% of all photosynthesis in the world.
seaweed farming upsc

Commercial Significance of Seaweeds

  • Seaweed is full of vitamins, minerals, & fibre.
  • Many seaweeds contain anti-inflammatory & anti-microbial agents.
  • They are known to process significant medicinal effects.
  • Certain seaweeds possess powerful cancer-fighting agents.
  • They are effective binding agents (emulsifiers) & are used commercial goods as toothpaste & fruit jelly, & popular softeners (emollients) in organic cosmetics & skin-care products.

Importance of Seaweed Farming

  • Provide occupation for the coastal people.
  • Provide continuous supply of raw material for seaweed-based industry.
  • Seaweed farming is eco-friendly.
  • It is a major tool to treat coastal pollution in the sea & reduce CO2 in global warming.

Seaweed Cultivation: Potential in India

  • India is among the 12 mega-biodiversity nations in the world.
  • India has an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of 2.17 million km2.
  • The Indian coastline, with its different coastal ecosystems, supports the luxuriant growth of diverse seaweed populations, having considerable economic importance.
  • About 844 seaweed species are reported from India which has a coastline of 7,500 km.
  • On the West Coast, especially in Gujarat, abundant resources are present in the intertidal & subtidal regions.
  • These resources have great potential for the development of seaweed-based industries in India.
  • Tamil Nadu, Gujarat coasts, Lakshadweep & Andaman & Nicobar Islands are abundant in seaweed.
  • Rich seaweed beds are also found around Mumbai, Ratnagiri, Goa, Karwar, Varkala, Vizhinjam & Pulicat in Tamil Nadu & Chilka in Orissa.
  • Gulf of Mannar is home to more than 240 seaweed varieties out of which at least 185 are edible ones.
Seaweed Farming

Challenges to seaweed harvesting in India

  • Labour shortages during the paddy harvesting & transplanting season.
  • Lack of livelihood security due to low wages & during bad weather.
  • Lack of technology to improve processed products.
  • Lack of information on new & alternative sources of raw material.
  • Risky as they must be collected from depths of more than 25 to 30 feet to collect seaweed.
  • Over-exploitation: While India has a rich source of seaweed varieties, we have focused only on harvesting, not cultivation thus leading to over-exploitation.
  • Lack of awareness about health benefits acts as a hindrance to nutrition transition among the population.
  • Less market demand.
  • Lack of support from the government.

Seaweeds Mission launched for commercial farming of seaweeds

  • Technology Information, Forecasting and Assessment Council (TIFAC) has launched a Seaweed Mission. 
  • Objective: Commercial farming of seaweeds and its processing for value addition towards boosting the national economy.

The Mission shall undertake following activities:

  • Establishing model demonstration farms over one hectare for the cultivation of economically important seaweeds in nearshore and onshore along the Indian coasts. 
  • Establishment of seaweed nurseries for supplying seed material for large scale farming 
  • Onshore cultivation for
    • (i) Seedling supply facility
    • (ii) Seaweed cultivation for processing
  • Setting up of processing plant for production of plant growth stimulants (sap) and industrially important cell wall polysaccharides such as agar, agarose, carrageenan, and alginates from fresh seaweeds

Advantages of the Mission:

  • By an estimate, if cultivation is done in 5% of the EEZ area of India, it can:
    • provide employment to ~ 50 million people;
    • set up new seaweed industry;
    • contribute to national GDP;
    • increase ocean productivity;
    • reduce algal blooms,
    • increase Carbon sequestration;
    • provide bio-ethanol of 6.6 billion litres. 

Do you know? 

  • Out of the global seaweed production of around 32 million tons, fresh weight is valued at around 12 billion USD.
  • China produces ~57 %, Indonesia ~28%, whereas India is having a mere share of ~0.01-0.02%.

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