Belize - Belize News - - Great Belize Productions - Belize Breaking News
Home » Agriculture, Environment » Seaweed Farming – Is It a Viable Option for Fisherfolk?
Jul 27, 2020

Seaweed Farming – Is It a Viable Option for Fisherfolk?

Is seaweed farming the next big thing for fisherfolk in Belize? Well, the Turneffe Atoll Sustainability Association, in partnership with The Nature Conservancy and the Belize Fisheries Department, wrapped up a three-day seaweed cultivation training on Calabash Caye over the weekend. The training, supported by the U.N.D.P. and Australian Aid was carried out under a project called “Creating Climate-Resilient Livelihoods for Turneffe Atoll Marine Reserve Fishers through Sustainable Seaweed.” Fishers got the opportunity to learn about seaweed farming and the importance of it sustainability.  As a part of the training, they also acquired skills in business management, best planting and cultivation practices and how to construction submerged seaweed structures and rafts. News Five visited Calabash Caye over the weekend to find out why seaweed is a viable option for fisherfolk. Here’s the story.


Jason Young

Jason Young, Workshop Participant

“This is a new method and there are procedures you have to go through to prepare the bedding and seedlings how to do it properly. Compared to how we know, it just grows in the wild and sits there and this you have to put time and invest into it.”


Andrea Polanco, Reporting

Fisherman Jason Young hopes that seaweed farming will become the next big thing for fisherfolk in Belize. He has been fishing for over twenty-years, and he like other fisherfolk in the Turneffe Atoll want to tap into this multi-billion dollar industry. But first they need to be able to produce commercial quantities that meet international standards. So, for three days Jason Young and fourteen other participants, mostly fisherfolk, gathered on Calabash Caye to learn the basics in sustainable seaweed cultivation. Lowell ‘Japs’ Godfrey was the lead trainer.


Lowell Godfrey

Lowell Godfrey, Trainer

“They are learning to set up the structure from which to plant and basically to care for the seaweed that they planted.   The major part of seaweed planting is to prepare for planting; cutting the rope; splicing the rope; doing the cultivation lines; preparing anchors; the buoys. And planting the seaweed is a fast and easy process.”


…and that’s what the workshop participants did – cut and splice their ropes and set up their fifty by fifty submerged seed bank just off the Calabash Caye. There we found lines and lines of the macro-algae that will be ready for harvest in three months’ time. The Nature Conservancy is one of the partners leading the training session.


Seleem Chan

Seleem Chan, Seaweed Project Coordinator, The Nature Conservancy

“Our goal really is to see if we could get to five producing seaweed farms here in Turneffe and to boost the industry in Belize for us to get to a point where seaweed could become a supplemental livelihood for fishers and one day to become an alternative livelihood.   Seaweed cultivation is just that and it is not taking them away from the sea. I believe that once a fisherman, always a fisherman or fisherwoman. I believe we have to find that alternative means of income just like seaweed that they are still in the water.”


…and that’s why seaweed cultivation is an ideal way to supplement the income for these fisherfolk. Fisherman William Johnson has been fishing out in Turneffe for forty years. His partner Jessica Gibson is also a fisher – and for this training their daughter tagged along to observe. This is their introduction to seaweed farming.


William Johnson

William Johnson, Participant

“It makes a lot of good products and I think that we will have a big industry in doing the seaweed farming. So, I am willing to work with it and see how much I can do with it.”


Andrea Polanco

“From the training – what was your experience? How was it?”


William Johnson

“Well, I learned a lot from it. I can see that it can be really successful. I am going to try and do it as long as I could do it.”


Jessica Gibson

Jessica Gibson, Participant

“Fishing is totally different from seaweed but at the end of the day I choose it because it is a great opportunity in life. It wah come in on the side because we do fishing and diving and sometimes the fishing and diving don’t work out or don’t pay off and so the seaweed that we do on the side will give extra to help us on the side.”


Andrea Polanco

“Can you see yourself leaving fishing and going into seaweed solely?”


Jessica Gibson

“I would say yes because it will get big in the future.”


Paige Johnson

Paige Johnson, Workshop Observer

“I think they are going to do well because it is easy for them to do. When I am watching them they work fast and it is easy for them. I think it will work well for them in the future.”


Illegal fishing; overfishing and other pressures have impacted the fish stocks so much so that fisherfolk no longer earn what they used to. They can now use seaweed to earn extra income. But researchers and managers of these sites know that the power of the seaweed goes beyond the dollar value.


Valdemar Andrade

Valdemar Andrade, Executive Director, TASA

“Also at the same time trying to take the pressure off the regular commercial specie like conch, lobster and fin fish thereby diversifying the resource base.  So, what we are trying to do as well is to create climate resilience for the Turneffe fisher, so trying to look at something that will still perform under these climatic conditions that we have these days.    In doing this process and looking at the technique, we have found that the seaweed is good nursery grounds because we have also found evidence of small finfish, juvenile lobsters, crabs and crustaceans. So it also has nursery value.”


…and so because the seaweed thrives in our waters – and it provides so many benefits and opportunities – the plan is to get the seaweed farmers organized so that Belize can start commercial exportation. And that is why the Department of Cooperatives is involved to help guide the development of this emerging industry.


Michel Lewis

Michel Lewis, Senior Cooperative Officer, Department of Cooperatives

“There is a market for Belize. The issue is that the market is just for the dry and in a gel form. It is a simple process. The Placencia Fishermen Cooperative has not really moved to that stage where they are really adding value to the product but we know that the potential is there for markets in terms of doing cosmetic products; hair products and food – you can use seaweed as food. The whole idea of this what we are looking at is that we want to supply the local market yes, but we feel that the real income is in the export market in terms of value adding.  We are hoping that we can get not only the existing fishermen who are members of cooperatives but other fishermen who are independent. We are going to assist them to organize the groups and get them to work together.”


Seaweed sells for thirty-dollars on the local market – and on the U.S. market it sells for fifteen US dollars. Local experts say that the demand for seaweed and its by-products are growing. It is used for food; cosmetics; pharmaceuticals; industrial products and more. The Fisheries Department is now working on policies and regulations for this emerging mari-culture sector.


Felicia Cruz

Felicia Cruz, Fisheries Officer, Fisheries Department

“The Department is presently drafting the policy and some regulations that would guide the application; the extraction; the monitoring; the exportation and overall development of the seaweed mariculture activities in Belize. We are still in that process and we are shifting now from research to commercialization. So, with this sensitization effort we hope to have something structured and guided for them sometime this year because we believe the opportunity is now.”


Reporting for News Five, I’m Andrea Polanco.

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.

Advertise Here

Comments are closed