I’m sure all of you are familiar with the mala craze and I am a huuUUUuuge fan of mala.
But today we will not be talking about mala but rather one of my favourite ingredients that I would always pick when having mala: kelp (which is a type of seaweed but for this post we will just use seaweed as a general term)!
The appearance of seaweed in human history goes way back but its first recorded use was in China 1700 years ago according to this article (source). Seaweed has been used for many purposes such as food, feed, and medicine. In more contemporary contexts, seaweed provides valuable ingredients for cosmeceutical and pharmaceutical products (source). Today, seaweed’s popularity continues to rise as ongoing research unravels its potential as one of the most sustainable food sources.
Seaweed is a completely sustainable future food
Seaweed doesn’t need soil. Seaweed doesn’t need fresh water.
Seaweed doesn’t need fertiliser. Seaweed doesn’t need farming.
Seaweed absorbs carbon dioxide and releases oxygen.
Seaweed is fast-growing and nutrient-dense.
Seaweed harvesting supports coastal communities.
What’s not to love?
The benefits of farming seaweed are many and they include (source):
- Nutritional value and health benefits – seaweed is super nutritious
- Absorbs C02, reduces ocean acidification and sanitises water – seaweed are significant carbon sinks. According to an interview with Tim Flannery, an Australian scientist, he claims ‘Seaweed grows at 30 to 60 times the rate of land-based plants, so it can draw out lots of C02. One study suggests that if you cover 9 percent of the world’s oceans in seaweed farms, you could draw down the equivalent of all our current emissions — more than 40 gigatons a year — and grow enough protein to feed a population of 10 billion people. That’s a huge opportunity.’ Seaweed also uses nutrients in the water for growth, hence reducing the risk of eutrophication and ocean dead zones.
- Guardian of the seabeds – wild seaweed is a vital nursery for juvenile commercial fish. As such, it could aid in the protection of seabeds as it discourages the use of harmful fishing methods such as bottom-trawling (below is a short video about bottom trawling).
However, with the rising popularity of seaweed but without proper management, the risk this industry poses might cancel out the benefits.
It may be true that the farming of seaweed requires low input and that seaweeds are relatively resilient but studies show that conditions need to be optimal for them to regrow. Concerns over large scale industrial dredging of seaweed were brought up as the regrown seaweed, after such process, were found to have their ability to thrive and support broad ecosystem compromised. In addition, though seaweed can grow back relatively quickly, it might take a much longer time for the invertebrates and fish it supports to repopulate (source).
This ties in with what I mentioned last week about aquaculture. We may discover new techniques and solutions to cope with humanity’s rising demands, but there’s a limit to how much we can ‘take’ from nature. Maybe, instead of hovering around that threshold and worrying when we will exceed it, can’t we all just cut down on our part even if it is just a little bit?