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Jul 28, 2020

The Opportunities in the Seaweed Industry

On Monday night we showed you fifteen participants, majority fisherfolk from the Turneffe Atoll Marine Reserve, who became certified in an introduction to seaweed farming. Those fisherfolk want to supplement their income base and managers of the marine resources want to reduce the pressures on the fish stocks.  So, they believe that seaweed has the potential to do just that. One resident of Placencia, Lowell Godfrey was able to successfully give up fishing and now makes his living solely on through seaweed farming. Here’s more.


Andrea Polanco, Reporting

Lowell ‘Japs’ Godfrey was a fisherman for more than forty years. But a couple years ago, he traded in his fishing gears for seaweed farming. And it’s paying off…


Lowell ‘Japs’ Godfrey, Chairman, Placencia Producers Cooperative

“I have completely turned my back on harvesting fish, lobster and conch to strictly harvesting seaweed.”


Lowell ‘Japs’ Godfrey

Andrea Polanco

“So, you have been able to make a living from this?”


Lowell ‘Japs’ Godfrey

“Yes, ma’am and a pretty good one, I might say.”


So, when Godfrey saw a decline in fishery stocks he knew he had to do something – and the Placencia Producers Cooperative began to cultivate seaweed.


Lowell ‘Japs’ Godfrey

“As we see commercial species started to be depleted, we know that we had to make a switch.  We were trail blazing – we had no precedence for what we were doing so we had to negotiate to get some of that.”


Every three months they harvest between eight hundred to a thousand pounds of seaweed. They package it and sell mostly on the local market. They have started small scale exportation to some states in the U.S.A.  Godfrey says before they became successful, it was a lot of trial and error.


Lowell ‘Japs’ Godfrey

“It was a learning process because we had to go to Glover’s Reef where we got our seed stock – and just getting the matter of bringing the seed stock we lost ninety percent of what we brought. So, nurturing the ones that survived was like going back to school in the fields.   Piracy – number one. It is a hot commodity but people don’t want to invest in the cultivation and just want to come and take what’s cultivated. Sargassum is also another thing because it gets tangled in the cultivation.”


…and once it hit the international market – the demand grew, as the seaweed is described as high quality seaweed on the market.


Michel Lewis

Michel Lewis, Senior Cooperatives Officer, Department of Cooperatives

“Based on some minor exports that the cooperative has done to the US, we have a guy from the US who is very interested and he has expressed that the quality is good quality. I think that one of the main reasons is because they are doing it in the reserves.”


As the co-manager of the Turneffe Atoll Marine Reserve where some two hundred or so fisherfolk operate, for the Turneffe Atoll Sustainability Association it is important that seaweed farmers capitalize on the opportunities that exist in this global industry.


Valdemar Andrade

Valdemar Andrade, Executive Director, TASA

“So, what we are looking at are the value added niches, such as the super food industry and the cosmetic industry. So, in the super food industry they use it for drinks and they use as an additive to soups, and food; as an additive to salads. You can make shakes from it because our seaweed – what we know as Belizean gold – is a high value product in that it has a lot of high value proteins and vitamins. We are also looking at the controls because we also want to ensure that our seaweed is not just bought and rebranded somewhere and sold as something else. So, who do we sell to and what purposes do we sell for. So, the regulatory environment is very important, in that also you have to control the quality of what you are going to export, because if you get one bad batch of seaweed to anyone buyer we are selling to, it can create a market issue for us at the end of the day.”


…and to give the seaweed the best possible start,  the farm sites are being constructed far away from the coast, where they can flourish in pristine waters.


Seleem Chan

Seleem Chan, Seaweed Project Officer, The Nature Conservancy

“So, we have habitats that are within those reefs that are quite calm and nice and well oxygenated; no pollutants from the coast; pure water. And so that is really where the seaweed is growing and it draws energy, nutrients from the water and in turn it will give you a pure product. That is what we have in Belize.”


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.

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