Interest growing in Canada’s ‘other weed’

Liza Mayer
June 12, 2018
By
Dr Stephen Cross, Industrial Research Chair for Sustainable Aquaculture at North Island College in BC
Dr Stephen Cross, Industrial Research Chair for Sustainable Aquaculture at North Island College in BC North Island College
Interest is growing in Canada’s “other weed” — seaweed, that is.

In Nova Scotia, interest is growing in seaweed cultivation as an alternative to mussel farming, said Dr Isabelle Tremblay of the aquaculture Association of Nova Scotia, during a session at Aquaculture Canada 2018 in Quebec City end of May.

“Mussel farming is no longer economically viable in some areas in Nova Scotia because of biofouling and predation problems. Some mussel leases are underutilized. Seaweed cultivation is a potential new industry,” Tremblay said. Several activities have been held in the province since 2014, such as workshops on planning and evaluation of seaweed cultivation. This summer people from Nova Scotia will go to Quebec to visit a research institution, commercial hatchery, seaweed producers and processing plant to learn more.

There is likewise growing interest in coastal British Columbia in seaweed, said Dr Stephen Cross, Industrial Research Chair for Sustainable Aquaculture at North Island College (NIC) in BC.

Shellfish hatcheries are interested in seaweed for mitigation of ocean acidification issues while First Nations communities are interested in cultivating brown algae (Saccharina latissima) in small-scale individual farms that fit in with their capacity. He sees cooperative-style operations, where production will be pooled and will share a common processing facility, as economically viable.

A kelp-growing study by partners BC Salmon Farmers Association and NIC shows good potential in growing seaweed within salmon farm tenures. Forty-four fish farms are well suited to co-culture seaweed with salmon, Cross said.

At the moment, seaweed harvest in the province is mostly from the wild, totaling roughly 800 to 1,000 MT per year. Cross sees “incredible production and market opportunity” in seaweed farming because the province has the most diverse seaweed species in the world — 633 in all; the province’s 20,000 km of coastline is physically diverse and has pristine water quality; and the province has a large Asian population, a ready market for seaweed.

Cross believes consumer acceptance of seaweed in the West will boil down to marketing. “Asians have eaten it for thousands of years, it’s part of their culture and diet. Here, it’s ‘Eww, seaweed? It think it’s a matter of education,” he told Aquaculture North America (ANA).



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