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Biodiversity & Environment

National Conference on Promotion of Seaweed Cultivation

  • 03 Feb 2024
  • 5 min read

For Prelims: Seaweed, Medical Food of the 21st Century, Kelp forests, Red algae, Blue algae, Major Seaweed Beds in India, Commercialised Seaweed Products in India.

For Mains: Distribution and Significance of Seaweeds, Seaweed Cultivation in India.

Source: PIB

Why in News?

Recently, the National Conference on Promotion of Seaweed Cultivation was held in Koteshwar (Kori Creek), Kutch, Gujarat.

  • It aimed at implementing seaweed cultivation on a pan-India basis, emphasizing the promotion of seaweed cultivation to diversify marine production and enhance fish farmer income.

What are Seaweeds?

  • About: Seaweeds are macroscopic, multicellular, marine algae. They come in a variety of coluors, including red, green, and brown.
    • They are referred to as the 'Medical Food of the 21st Century’.
  • Distribution: Seaweeds are found mostly in the intertidal region, in shallow and deep waters of the sea and also in estuaries and backwaters.
    • Large seaweeds form dense underwater forests known as kelp forests, which act as underwater nurseries for fish, snails and sea urchins.
  • Seaweed Species in India: India boasts approximately 844 reported seaweed species in its seas.
    • Some specific species, such as Gelidiella acerosa, Gracilaria spp., Sargassum spp., Turbinaria spp., and Cystoseira trinodis are cultivated for the production of agar, alginates, and liquid seaweed fertilizer.

Note

Agar is obtained from red algae and is used as thickening and gelling agent in jellies, puddings, jams etc, whereas alginate is obtained from brown algae and used as thickener and stabilizer in ice cream, sauces, and dressings.

  • Despite having 46 seaweed-based industries in India, particularly 21 for Agar and 25 for Alginate production, their operational efficiency is hindered by the shortage of raw materials.
  • Major Seaweed Beds in India: Abundant seaweed resources are found along the Tamil Nadu and Gujarat coasts, as well as around Lakshadweep and the Andaman & Nicobar Islands.
    • Notable seaweed beds exist around Mumbai, Ratnagiri, Goa, Karwar, Varkala, Vizhinjam, and Pulicat in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, and Chilka in Orissa.
  • Significance:
    • Bio-indicator: They act as bio-indicator by absorbing excess nutrients and signalling marine chemical damage caused by waste from agriculture, industries, and households, often leading to algal blooming.
      • They play a vital role in restoring ecosystem balance.
    • Food Source: Seaweed is a nutritional powerhouse, rich in vitamins, minerals, and dietary fibre.
      • It Is used in various food products, from sushi and salads to snacks and thickeners.
      • Many seaweeds contain anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial agents. Seaweed is the best source of iodine.
    • Bioproducts: Seaweed extracts are used in a wide range of products, including cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, and bioplastics. They offer sustainable alternatives to conventional options.
    • Carbon Capture: Seaweed absorbs carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as it grows, making it a potential tool in the fight against climate change.
      • Studies suggest cultivating and sinking seaweed could effectively store long-term carbon.
    • Livelihoods: Seaweed farming provides income and empowers coastal communities, particularly women and small-scale farmers.
      • It requires minimal investment and offers relatively quick returns.
    • Other Benefits: Seaweeds are utilized for various purposes, including laxatives, pharmaceutical capsules, goiter treatment, cancer therapy, bone replacement, and cardiovascular surgeries.
      • Anecdotal evidence also suggests that the ancient Egyptians may have used them as a treatment for breast cancer.
  • Related Government Initiatives:
    • Seaweed Mission: This initiative aims to commercialize seaweed farming and processing for value addition. It also aims to increase cultivation along India's 7,500-kilometer coastline.
    • Commercialisation of Seaweed Products: The Indian Council of Agricultural Research(ICAR)- Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI) has successfully commercialized two seaweed-based nutraceutical products, CadalminTM Immunalgin extract (CadalminTM IMe) and CadalminTM Antihypercholesterolemic extract (CadalminTM ACe).
      • These products, developed with eco-friendly 'green' technology, aim to boost anti-viral immunity and combat high cholesterol or dyslipidemia (imbalance of cholesterol).
    • Multi-Purpose Seaweed Park in Tamil Nadu.

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