Domestication of the oceans is widely regarded as a possible solution to increase food and could be one of the next most important developments in human history. By 2050, the edible bioresource biomass will have to satisfy the 9 billion people predicted to live on the planet. Seaweed aquaculture can help to address global challenges related to nutrition, health and sustainable circular bio economy. Today, there is growing need for development, improvement and diversification of seaweed aquaculture practices in Europe, a continent characterised by its large coastal territory and large range of climates.
Seaweed are plant-like organisms, playing a key ecological role in coastal ecosystems: support of food web, coastal protection of erosion, bioremediation by removal of nitrogen or phosphate and possible pollutants and CO2 sequestration. Although European marine flora displays one of the highest species-diversity levels in the world, its commercial production is still in its infancy, with only 1% of the world’s production from which less than 1% was coming from aquaculture in 2016. Interest in seaweed-based industrial applications is on the rise. The estimated value of the global seaweed production industry is more than ~ 8B€ (for 30Mt) and is continuing to expand. Seaweed are thus a promising bioresource for the future and the demand for high-value seaweed-derived compounds (cosmetics, food) is growing in Europe. However, the European production lags behind Asian countries despite its large exclusive economic zone, its high seaweed biodiversity and its international leadership in fundamental research on seaweed genomics, genetics and cutting-edge techniques. Therefore, European industries involved in the development of sustainable seaweed aquaculture need to be supported.
Authors: Michèle Barbier, Bénédicte Charrier, Rita Araujo, Susan L. Holdt, Bertrand Jacquemin and Céline Rebours