Baltic Seaweed Biosafety
Sustainable blue economy – and blue bioeconomy – is the recently defined strategic direction of development for the seas and oceans of the European Union. Baltic Sea is not an exception, and considering the continuously decreasing fish stocks, it is quite obvious that traditional use of marine resources needs a sustainable lifting. The cultivation of low trophic species, like local mussels and seaweeds present untapped opportunities in the Baltic Sea area. In addition to biomass production, these organisms would counteract eutrophication by either taking up inorganic nutrients (seaweed) or removing plankton (mussels). Eutrophication is a serious environmental problem in the Baltic Sea and the removal of excessive nutrients by low trophic level cultivation protect against biodiversity loss and oxygen deficiency.
During the last ten years, the issues of mussel cultivation in the Baltic Sea have been tackled in more than 20 national and regional research projects, while seaweeds have received much less attention. However, projects like GRASS (Interreg BSR), FucoSan (Interreg DE-DK), TANG.NU (VILLUM/VELUX FOUNDATION), Seafarm (SE FORMAS), and SUSKULT (NCM) have recently contributed to various aspects of growing seaweeds and algae sustainably, but further steps are necessary to lift the cultivation of marine plants from an experimental to an industrial level. With this project we aim to tackle the most important issues to facilitate the development, addressing environmental safety – as we cannot afford to add one more stressor upon already degraded “environmental status” of the Baltic Sea.
AIM OF THE PROJECT:
BalticSeaSafe project aims for creating a well justified guidance, resulting in recommendations and position papers on environmental monitoring and license conditions for cultivation of seaweed in the Baltic Sea with regard to environmental safety. The work is building on the work of Baltic GRASS project and its recommendation for future actions.
BalticSeaSafe will raise awareness on environmental benefits and risks of algae cultivation in the Baltic Sea region, especially in matters of biohazard. In the last 10 years, Baltic Sea Region actors incl. politicians, authorities, entrepreneurs, consumers are very much preoccupied with eutrophication and future measures to improve environmental status of the Baltic Sea. Although seaweed has a very green and safe image, it is important to secure that the assumptions are valid and build on fact-checked decision making. In the next 5 years, direction of the search will develop expectations and a vision for algae sector in the region and thereby bullet-proofing algae benefits, incl. at scale, is an important milestone on the way to the market.
BalticSeaSafe will also build capacities among policy makers in suggesting a fair unified and coherent licensing regulation reflecting the real risks and also industry’s needs. Currently, licensing for setting up new farms is an important barrier for algae investors and entrepreneurs. A new standardised licensing process can effectively unlock investments in algae, by including algae in the maritime spatial plans and allocating areas suitable for algae farming, and also develop a process that is robust, fair, functional and effective.
BalticSeaSafe is a consortium of 3 project partners, including SUBMARINER Network and its members.
Efthalia Arvaniti, Team Lead Aquatic Value Chains