Ask an Ocean Expert is an ongoing series where MSC staff answer your questions about marine life.
What is the point of seaweed?
Answered by ASC-MSC Seaweed Account Manager, Patricia Bianchi MSc
Seaweeds play a key role in the ecosystem. All seaweeds are photosynthetic, which means they use energy from sunlight to help produce food for themselves, absorbing carbon monoxide (CO2) and releasing oxygen (O2). Did you know that seaweeds can produce 70-80% of the oxygen in the atmosphere of the Earth?
Seaweeds are extraordinarily diverse and have a varied range of potential applications and cultivation methods. Seaweeds are used in almost every product, from milkshakes to salad dressing to toothpaste. They are produced and harvested in a number of ways, from land-based farms to farms at sea and wild harvesting straight from the ocean. From the very simple to more complex...
A major advantage in the cultivation of seaweed is the fact that feeding it - the cost and availability of which are often limiting factors in fish farming - is not needed. Yields per square metre are much higher than any other land crop and some species of brown seaweeds can grow up to half a metre a day.
Due to the rapid growth of global seaweed production and its increasing economic importance, the sector is facing many environmental and social challenges. If seaweed cultivation and harvest is not well managed, it can have a range of adverse impacts, including genetic, water pollution, disruption of local ecosystems and poor working conditions.