Aquaculture North America

Opportunities for restorative seaweed aquaculture in Oregon: report

June 6, 2023
By Maryam Farag

The Nature Conservancy, a global environmental non-profit, has released a new report that  highlights the Pacific Northwest as a top marine ecoregion for the aquaculture industry, and explores potential opportunities and challenges for restorative seaweed aquaculture in Oregon.

According to the report, seaweed can provide sustainable products for a wide range of industries while providing livelihoods for coastal communities and improving ocean health, but it will require policy changes, market and supply chain development, and partnerships across sectors.  

Some key findings and recommendations from the report include: 

  • The relatively small amount of seaweed produced in Oregon is currently sold fresh or dried to high-end restaurants, specialty shops, and farmers markets. For production to be economically viable and avoid direct competition with more established Asian suppliers, new diversified markets, increased efficiencies of scale, and/or higher-valued seaweed products will likely be necessary. 
  • Expanding upstream and downstream supporting infrastructure is crucial to supply chain development—efforts are already underway by local management and non-profit organizations. 
  • No regulatory framework for in-water seaweed aquaculture exists in Oregon, but the well-defined administrative process for oyster aquaculture can be adapted for seaweed. Enabling policies and regulations that also address environmental concerns—such as biosecurity threats, impacts to wild stocks, and loss of genetic diversity—are important for the sustainable development of any seaweed industry.  
  • Given their traditional knowledge and seaweed harvesting expertise, coupled with formal and informal co-management rights, Tribes and First Nations are critical partners and educators in helping the industry meet its restorative potential in Oregon and throughout the Pacific Northwest. 
  • Seaweed aquaculture could also diversify income streams for local fisherfolk or diversify crops for existing aquaculture producers in the state. Co-culture and livelihood diversification can generate off-season revenue, provide year-round employment, and improve resilience to socioeconomic and environmental change. 

Full report is available here: Situation Analysis for Oregon’s Emergent Seaweed Aquaculture Industry.

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