They’re not just for salads or appetizers anymore. Seaweed are marine algae that have been found to play an essential role in global food security. Usually green, red, or brown, these sea vegetables are not only a viable food source for both humans and ocean dwellers but also vital in sustaining ecosystems. Seaweed provide a habitat for fisheries and remove undesired nutrients in the water. But beyond their indispensable role in nature, seaweed are also gaining traction for their sustainable production. Pristine Solutions, a Philippine company that focuses on building sustainable supply chains, has been one of the key promoters of seaweed in the country. Here, founding partner and CEO Christian Schmidradner shares facts on the sustainable product ahead of the Philippine Sustainability Month 2019, which is on September.

SUSTAINABLE FOOD CALLS FOR FOOD PRODUCTION THAT IS REGENERATIVE AND HAS LOW IMPACT ON THE ENVIRONMENT

“Sustainable foods do not exploit our resources and is characterized by sensitive production methods,” Schmidradner says. “Crucial in sustainable food supply chains is that it is traceable.” Several factors determine the sustainability of seafood: They should be caught through processes that do not harm endangered species; they should not include juvenile fish into the supply chain; they should not employ harmful methods such as bottom trawling and dynamite or cyanide fishing; they should come from registered licensed vessels; and their supply chain should be fully traceable and certified in terms of food safety, chain of custody, and sustainability. As for aquacultures, seafood should be assessed on where their feed comes from, where the waste water flows to, and whether or not they are medicated. Sustainable food supply chains should also generate positive livelihood impact through sourcing from small-scale fishing communities rather than large corporations.

IN THE PHILIPPINES, ABOUT 90 PERCENT OF THE FISHING GROUNDS ARE HEAVILY OVERFISHED AND EXPLOITED

Initiatives like the Philippine Sustainable Seafood Week, which is supported by the government, non-governmental organizations, and some private sector companies, are addressing these issues on endangered species, overfishing, stock control and monitoring, vessel registration and licensing, traceability systems, fish catch reports, and IUU (illegal, unreported, and unregulated) fishing. A recurring challenge is the implementation on landing sites in islands and provinces, especially because the country is an archipelago with fragmented coastlines that are difficult to control and monitor.

Currently, there is a ratio of about 70 percent wild-caught seafood to 30 percent aquaculture- harvested. It’s a ratio that is aimed to be turned around in the next years to decrease the pressure on wild stocks while ensuring food security. “This means much more aquaculture is needed in the country,” Schmidradner says. But strict regulation must be made because fish ponds can also have a harmful effect on the environment, including deforestation of mangrove forests.

SEAWEED CAN BE FARMED IN AN ENVIRONMENTALLY SENSITIVE AND SUSTAINABLE WAY
Lato seaweed variety

Seaweed can be wild-harvested or also farmed in aquacultures. Wild harvesting, however, presents more difficulties as seaweed still needs to be tested appropriately. It requires laboratory tests and proper classifications, especially if the variety is questionable. Wild harvesting of seaweed can be done but needs the right permits and guidance from the government. Most seaweed available in the market is farmed. This is popularly done in Palawan and several islands and provinces in Mindanao.

SEAWEED ARE MUCH MORE SUSTAINABLE BECAUSE THEY DO NOT NEED FEEDS AND THEY DON’T CREATE WASTE IN AQUACULTURE

Growing seaweed through agriculture farming has become a popular option because of its positive effects on the environment. Seaweed help in absorbing carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen. They also play a crucial role in cleaning water by removing unnecessary nutrients. Water where seaweed are cultivated, therefore, become a nursing ground for fish and crustaceans.

Seaweed also do not needy any further feeds as they grow out naturally. The low-impact plant only requires seawater, light, and an attachment point—like the shore—to grow. It also doesn’t require fertilizers. At the same time, it has been considered a superfood, promising many health benefits.

From 2000 to 2015, it has been reported that 50 percent of aquaculture production in the Philippines comes from seaweed.

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