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Nov 28, 2019

The Emergence of the Seaweed Farming Industry

A grant initiative valued at two hundred thousand dollars was launched on Wednesday. The Belize Seaweed Mariculture Project is a joint initiative between the Belize Trade and Investment Development Service, BELTRAIDE, The Nature Conservancy Belize, TNC, and Compete Caribbean. The project aims to develop the seaweed farming industry by tackling current challenges. News Five’s Hipolito Novelo reports. 

 

Hipolito Novelo, Reporting

Seaweed farming is an emerging industry in Belize. The marine algae which present itself in several shades such as red, brown and green is considered an ideal food source for coastal communities. That’s because it’s rich in sodium, calcium, and potassium, among other macronutrients. Its uses vary. A 2018 research from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations says that more than two hundred species of seaweed are of commercial value. The report says that ten of those species are intensively cultivated. Globally, the seaweed industry is worth more than six billion US dollars with eighty-five percent of the industry comprised of food products for human consumption.

 

Annie Bertrand

Annie Bertrand, Coordinator Pillar 1, Compete Caribbean

“Seaweed has huge potential in the global market. The customers all over the world are more interested in eating in a healthy manner and the nutritional value of seaweed is considered as super important therefore there is a lot more people interested in eating seaweed for nutritional value but also because of the reputation of seaweed for other personal reason. It is an interesting product that people like to try.”

 

In Belize, seaweed farming has commenced and the Belize Trade and Investment Development Service (BELTRAIDE) is making major moves to encourage producers, attract investors and stimulate the industry. Further steps were taken today with the launch of the Belize Seaweed Mariculture Project, a grant initiative made possible through the collaborative work of BELTRIADE, The Nature Conservancy Belize, and Compete Caribbean.

 

Leroy Almendarez

Dr. Leroy Almendarez, Executive Director, BELTRAIDE

“So today what happens is that it means that the project is ready to go. In terms of identification of the funding and all of that it  means that now we can proceed with a plan that we had in place in terms of increasing not only the number of farmers but seaweed production. That is one of the things we have to look at.”

 

Through the development of sustainable seaweed farming, the project is designed to support the increase of fisheries productivity. Enhance the industry’s competitiveness and maintaining quality products are also important.

 

Wilbur Dubon

Wilbur Dubon, Aquaculture and Carbon Specialist, T.N.C.

“We often think that seaweed is only seaweed drink to put it back. No. It is beyond that. It is cosmetics. It is soaps. It all different spa treatments and that is what we want to ensure that we see what has the best value at this juncture and will require the least input at this point because we don’t have the millions of dollars will invest  but what we can ensure is that the quality is there.”

 

Dr. Leroy Almendarez

“Focusing on seaweed in this case it is also for the variety of things It is not only for drinking. You can have soap. Just now we tasted seaweed powder bun for example. The varieties are endless.”

 

Form in 1962 as fishing group, the Placencia Producers Cooperative in 2009 turned to mariculture, specifically seaweed farming, due to depleting fish stocks. The group has two sites, one off Little Water Caye and the other off Hatchet Caye.

 

Lowell Godfrey

Lowell Godfrey, Placencia Producers Cooperative

“Right now we produce a hundred pounds a month, dried seaweed which is about eight hundred pounds.”

 

Hipolito Novelo

“That is cultivate and what is then done with the seaweed?”

 

Lowell Godfrey

“We rinse it and put it out for dry and we sell it locally for food source.”

 

Hipolito Novelo

“So how is the seaweed sold?”

 

Lowell Godfrey

“Presently we are getting thirty Belize dollars per pound.”

 

Hipolito Novelo

“Is that good enough for you, sir?”

 

Lowell Godfrey

“Yes, yes. It is a good price.”

 

Hipolito Novelo

“Is there more room for famers to be part of the industry?”

 

Lowell Godfrey

“Yes. Further out behind the barrier reef we have large spots of sandy bottom where you won’t be competing with corals.”

 

Hipolito Novelo

“Is it difficult farming seaweed?

 

Lowell Godfrey

“No, it is quite easy.”

 

 

There is also the restorative aquaculture perspective to it. With a dwindling fishing stock and the increasing negative effects of sargassum, seaweed farming is able to not only protect marine ecosystem but rebuild it.

 

Wilbur Dubon

“It is habitat for juvenile spider lobster and fish. You go around the farms and you find conch, rays, sharks. And guess what? You find a lot of fly fishers in that area because there is permit, bonefish.”

 

Annie Bertrand

“You know that there has been an increase of sargassum coming in every year and what the sargassum is doing is taking away the oxygen from the sea to disintegrate and that affects the ecosystem negatively but with the seaweed what it does is help to recreate some of the balance has been affected by the sargassum.”

 

Some view seaweed farming as an alternative livelihood for gillnet users.

 

Dr. Leroy Almendarez

“So this is a supplementary but for some, a part from just fishing seaweeds becomes another source of income.”

 

Hipolito Novelo

“Do you believe that this is another avenue that gillnet user could go?”

 

Lowell Godfrey

“I would encourage them because gillnet is a killer, it kills indiscriminately while seaweed farming is also contributing back something to the environment.”

 

Wilbur Dubon

“I would caution against using alternative at this point because we are not at that stage where we have the big international market to support it financially as an alternative. As a supplementary, twenty percent of your time. Absolutely. We want it to be an alternative and that is what we hope to achieve in the next five, ten years but we are not there as yet.”

 

The next step would be to seek an international market and foster exports.

 

Annie Bertrand

“The most important for us is that this project can increase revenues for the private firms that are involved, meaning the farmers and the businesses that will benefit from it. That is important for us. This project is particularly interesting because it targets vulnerable groups including women because women can be involved in the industry as well. And ultimately it will generate exports for Belize overall.”

 

Dr. Leroy Almendarez

“Through BELTRAIDE and its Export Belize Unit we can explore what are those requirements for us to export because we have a very high quality that we can get very high premium per pound. If we commit yourself to exporting we to continue to produce at the same high quality.”

 

The technical assistance grant is being financed by Compete Caribbean which is funded by the Canadian Government, the United Kingdom and the Inter-American Development Bank. The grant is valued at two hundred thousand dollars. The project is expected to be fully rolled out in the course of two years. Reporting for News Five, I am Hipolito Novelo.


Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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