Friday, February 15, 2013

Warming seas frustrate Zanzibar's seaweed farmers

Danstan Kaunda in AlertNet: Rising sea temperatures and more extreme weather  are damaging Zanzibar’s formerly thriving seaweed farms, maritime experts say, reducing harvests and putting farmers out of work.

Commercially valuable seaweed was brought to Zanzibar from the Philippines in the 1980s, and early producers found it grew well in the shallow waters off this Indian Ocean island. Some types of seaweed, used in the food and pharmaceutical industries as a stabilizer or emulsifying agent, are in great demand abroad, and the government promoted it as a useful export crop and source of employment.

...Demand was strongest for high quality red seaweeds such as the Cottonii and Spinosum varieties, but seaweed farmers say those varieties are now proving very vulnerable to changes in growing conditions, which can make the weed lose its colour and, most important, its texture.

As an apparent result of warming conditions and storms, Zanzibar’s seaweed production has fallen sharply in recent years, from 14,040 tonnes five years ago to just under 10,800 tonnes last year, according to the Department of Marine Resources of Zanzibar.

The Zanzibar Exporters Association said its members collected and exported about 11,000 tonnes of dry seaweed in 2011, most of it going to the United States, France, Denmark, Spain, China and Chile....

Aquaculture of red algae in Zanzibar, shot by Leyo, Wikimedia Commons,  under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Switzerland license

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