Bull kelp seaweed for sale. (Photo: McKay Savage - CC BY 2.0)
Plan to encourage seaweed farming and stocking under way
Friday, February 15, 2013, 04:00 (GMT + 9)
The Undersecretariat of Fisheries and Aquaculture (Subpesca) is preparing a bill to promote the cultivation and repopulation of seaweed throughout Chile, newspaper La Segunda informed.
This initiative will be part of the new General Fisheries Act, recently passed.
As indicated by Subpesca, between January and November 2012, Chile exported seaweed for USD 203 million, a figure that represents an increase of 12.2 per cent over the same period last year.
In December 2012, a group of researchers, experts, authorities and seaweed farmers gathered in Santiago to express their positions and begin drafting the proposed bill, to order the industry before it grows bigger.
According to Jessica Fuentes, Subpesca Legal Adviser and leader of the new bill, "There is a need to give a more strategic framework to the issue of seaweed, which begins to have a significant importance for artisanal fisheries and is a centre of development in different regions.”
The seaweed business is very important "for the cosmetics, pharmaceutical, food industry and now in Chile, even for biofuels," she added.
Subpesca work team plans to award a bonus to implemented initiatives, which show repopulation and seaweed farming.
When the first draft of the proposal is ready -- in mid-to late March -- Subpesca will convene scholars and experts, who can provide the scientific view that the project requires, and industry players.
Fuentes further explained, "Before that, we have to work on the bonus issue. For that, we will hire a specific economical consultancy to support us in this for the bonus system design. We have to define what, how much and the sections. It is a technical issue for which we want an expert to support us."
According to the official, the initiative should be ready to present at the Congress "next May".
Currently, in the country, some 35,000 people are registered as a bank collectors or seaweed farmers.
This sector contributes 5 per cent of total revenues, which are collected on exports of fisheries sector, and the main markets are China, Japan, Norway and France.
Nationally, in 2000, 280,000 tonnes of seaweed were produced, in 2009, 480,000 tonnes, and in 2011, 403,000 tonnes, according to statistics from Subpesca.
While it is an industry linked to the artisanal sector, there is a project in southern Chile to grow seaweed on a large scale.
Bal Biofuels S.A. Consortium, formed by Bal Chile, whose parent is in the U.S. and in Los Lagos University, plans to develop technologies to produce biofuels and other chemicals with high added value using brown seaweed.
According Cristian Diaz, CEO Bal BioFuels Consortium, is working in the "optimization of seaweed farming technologies and their conversion into final products."
"The company has also asked major maritime areas through concessions in Region X, and taking advantage of the benefits under the new Fisheries Act, would be used to grow seaweed," he said.
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By Analia Murias