Seaweeds and our planet's health
Seaweeds are arguably the oldest plants on the planet. Because they are underwater, and therefore out of sight (out of mind), they are largely misunderstood when compared to their land vegetable counterparts. Seaweeds have an incredibly positive impact on our environment.
Oceans cover over 70% of the earth’s surface and produce only 2% of the world’s food – this will have to change as we look to new solutions for food, and the issues with intensive farming, poor soils etc continue to grow. We know that ‘sea vegetables’ offer different nutrients from land plants and often in more highly concentrated forms. Seaweeds require neither freshwater nor fertiliser to grow, and they grow quickly. The western world is starting to realise what has been known for centuries in Asian communities – seaweeds are a remarkably valuable source of nutrition for humans (and animals). There are many studies emerging now showing a marked reduction in methane emissions from cows when they are fed seaweeds as part of their diets. This is because the seaweed supplement is so settling for their guts.
You may be starting to understand why we think seaweeds are so incredible? Well it gets even better, seaweeds are carbon negative – they all photosynthesise, absorbing CO2 and releasing oxygen (even the red and brown ones). Whilst scientist debate the exact amount it’s well understood that oceans contribute over 50% of the earth’s oxygen. Much of this coming from the sea plants in the ocean. Where seaweeds grow, they provide habitat for smaller ocean creatures, clean & neutralise the water and can lower the water temperature, thereby improving and restoring the ocean’s natural balance. Seaweeds add to natural ecosystems, re-mediate excess carbon dioxide and deacidify the ocean.
Does harvesting seaweed have a negative impact on the planet's health?
We believe anything done to extreme will have a negative impact. The key is often ‘how is it being done’?
It’s not just the food industry showing an increasing interest in seaweed. The pharmaceutical, biofuel, cosmetic, pet food and even packaging industries are increasingly looking to seaweed to solve their problems. So, we are supportive of the development of controlled ‘seaweed farms’ where seaweeds can be ethically and sustainably harvested for food and the quality and supply closely monitored to take the pressure off wild beds.
We can mitigate climate change by developing sustainable food production and reducing emissions through a move towards plant based diets.
Healthy ecosystems are critical for the earth's capacity to absorb excess carbon dioxide. Currently 25% of carbon dioxide is being absorbed into oceans leading to acidification and carefully planned and managed seaweed farms can mitigate this because coastal systems (like mangroves, salt marshes and seaweeds) have been show to soak up carbon dioxide 40x faster than tropical rain forests.