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The good condition of seaweed beds is essential to have a sustainable abalone industry. (Photo: Stock File/FIS)

Caring for seaweed zones ensures sustainability of abalone

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Wednesday, March 16, 2011, 01:40 (GMT + 9)

The first stage of a survey that was conducted on macro algae in the country revealed the need to care for seaweed meadows in order to avoid exhaustion and to ensure the sustainability of the abalone industry.

"What we look for in this type of project, along with other government initiatives, is to be proactive, so not to wait for natural seaweed grasslands to be massively affected by extraction pressures relating to the resource," said Franklin Pincheira, Aquaculture Engineer at the Catholic University of the North and a consultant at the company Aquaculture Consultant Engineer (A.C.E. Ltd).

The research project, entitled 'Transfer of knowledge and training required for the sustainable development of brown seaweed growing on the coast of Region III from hatchery and planting techniques at sea', was commissioned to Pincheira by the Corporation for the Promotion of Production (CORFO), the Corporation for the Development of the Atacama Region (CORPROA) and the Project for Improvement of Competitiveness in the Aquatacama (PMC AquAtacama), reports El Diario de Atacama.

Both government officials and professionals of the aquaculture sector agreed on the need to address this research after identifying that the removal of seaweed historically went hand in hand with natural varazone resources.

"Although there is currently data regarding the consumption of seaweed from abalone and chemical industries, extracting these resources ​​far exceed the same tonnage of seaweed which are removed naturally. That led us to conclude that they were being artificially obtained in natural grasslands, which is a threat to the survival of these banks," said the expert.

Although some seaweed zones can become 50 hectares in size, it is not large enough to withstand the level of extraction.

Pincheira stressed that they "seek to train the workers in the area [farmers and fisherfolk] to have more knowledge about how to handle these grasslands, perpetuated in time, working with technical suspension systems and stocking of seaweed in order to allow them to recover."

For his part, Matías Cassanello, manager of PMC AquAtacama stated that this project will last for a duration of 11 months and will cost around CLP 56 million (USD 114,000). But he said that it will benefit some 500 people and the aquaculture sector of the Atacama.

The first phase lasted two months and had the purpose of seeking the best areas for which to award recipients with pilot installations and the potential Management and Exploitation of Areas for Benthic Resources (AMERB) for testing repopulation.

Nestor Lloyd, director for the Atacama at the National Fisheries Service (Sernapesca), underlined the importance of developing fisheries studies such as those for seaweed, which are vital but which have few technical grounds.

"It helps guide both extraction and marketing and even industry standards requiring adaptability to the changing methods surrounding this activity," he said.

According to Irma Oviedo, Regional Director of CORFO, the most important part of this study is that it will allow "them to know the effective tools in other sectors and will be designed to repopulate those areas which are overexploited due to a lack of technical knowledge and even of regulation."

Finally, Manuel Andrade, a professional at the Fisheries Directorate of Zonal Regions for Atacama and Coquimbo, said: "The delivery of the results for this part of the study has a national importance as the brown seaweed cultivation has become crucial to the exploitation of other species, so it is to facilitate the development of aquaculture aimed at reversing the decline. Any initiative to improve the sector is welcome."

By Analia Murias
[email protected]



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