Algae for the People

The human relationship with algae has been a long running affair.  Historically, we have benefited from the oxygen they have produced, their fossils contributing to offshore petroleum reserves, and their vital role throughout the food web, directly and indirectly giving rise to species with commercial, recreational, and subsistence importance.  In Asia, seaweeds have formed a staple dietary item for coastal communities for centuries.  On the island of Jersey, ‘vraic’ has been collected from the shore to be used as fertilizers for growing crops.  Today, seaweeds are still consumed throughout Asia, and is still used as fertilizer in Jersey (albeit in declining amounts), but its value as a resource has grown substantially.  The Food and Agriculture Organisation statistics reveal that algal aquaculture (algaculture) has been steadily increasing.  In 2012, over 23.8 million tonnes of algae was produced, with an estimated value of U$6.4 billion.  Whilst much for this is for food production (Nori, which is entirely produced in Asia, is worth U$2 billion alone), algae – both micro and macro, has been shown to have many other uses...


The full article was published in – and can be read in – The Marine Professional, a publication of the Institute of Marine Engineering, Science & Technology (IMarEST).


Image: Collecting seaweed and drying it to be processed to make alginate. Credit Michael/Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)