Seaweed farms have unexpected benefit

Written by on March 9, 2016 in Other News

Seaweed is farmed in many places around the world primarily for carrageenan, a thickening agent used in many everyday products, ranging from ice cream to toothpaste.

Farmed seaweed (Eucheuma denticulatum) in Tanzania. Photo credit: StinaTano, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Farmed seaweed (Eucheuma denticulatum) in Tanzania. Photo credit: StinaTano, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Many studies suggest that these seaweed farms are bad for coral reefs because they shade the coral, preventing them from getting enough sunlight. But, a new study from the University of Western Australia (UWA) found that seaweed farms may have some unexpected benefits.

Seaweed farms actually increase the food available to rabbitfish, which are a commercially important species. With more food available, rabbitfish may grow faster, which could lead to higher catch rates and improve the local fishery.

“This research suggests that seaweed farms may have a silver lining, increasing catches of species that play a key role in safeguarding threatened reefs,” co-author Professor Jessica Meeuwig explained in a news release.

“Rabbitfish play a vital role in keeping reefs clear of algae, which can smother coral and prevent growth,” lead author James Hehre, PhD student at UWA’s Oceans Institute. “Our research suggests that seaweed farms may ultimately play a role in protecting degraded coral reefs.”

To learn more:

Copyright © 2016 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.

About the Author

About the Author: Emily Tripp is the Publisher and Editor of MarineScienceToday.com. She holds marine science and biology degrees from the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and a Master of Advanced Studies degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. When she's not writing about marine science, she's probably running around outside or playing with her dog. .

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