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SAMS is a leading centre for seaweed research.
SAMS is a leading centre for seaweed research.

The first set of policy guidelines for the commercial cultivation of seaweed in Scotland have been published by the Scottish Government.  

The guidelines are intended to help to grow Scotland’s seaweed industry by providing clarity over where seaweed may be grown, along with what kinds of developments will be approved.

Scientists from the Scottish Association for Marine Science assisted in the development of the policy. Dr Michele Stanley, Centre Lead for Marine Biotechnology at SAMS, said: “Over the last couple of years we have seen a growing interest in the cultivation of seaweeds for a variety of uses. The publication of the Seaweed Cultivation Policy Statement will start to give this industry, which is very much in its infancy, much needed guidance and clarity about setting up a seaweed farm. It will hopefully help to encourage the expansion of commercial seaweed farming in a sustainable and environmental friendly manner.”

Native species

The Seaweed Cultivation Policy Statement also sets out the framework concerning the environmental impacts of seaweed farms, including the requirements to: consider and mitigate adverse environmental impact; ensure that only native species are cultivated; be sited away from sources of pollution, where growing for human consumption; allow small-medium size farms to be located anywhere in Scotland, subject to agreement and appropriate local conditions.

Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy Fergus Ewing said: “We are starting to see the growth in seaweed as a commercial product, used in a huge range of items including food, cosmetics and fertilisers.

Rural economy

“We know the west coast of Scotland is the perfect environment for seaweed cultivation and, although the industry is still in its infancy, indications suggest that there may be significant economic opportunities ready to be developed in this area.

“The Scottish Government is committed to building growth in our rural economy, by supporting rural producers and businesses. This policy statement was developed after full consultation with stakeholders so we can understand and take into account the needs of industry and communities.

“The Scottish Government has a commitment to grow our rural economy and support our local producers while balancing economic benefits with the need to protect our environment.”

The full Seaweed Cultivation Policy Statement is available here. The guidelines do not apply to the wild harvesting of seaweed.