Looking Beyond Fish

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22

Goa must wake up to high potential of seaweed farming

GOA has to start looking beyond fish in marine production. Seaweed farming is one area where the state can diversify marine cultivation in a big way. Goa has 105-km long coastline and has more than 100 types of seaweeds. The wealth of this natural resource has never been exploited. Seaweed farming is an emerging sector with potential to transform the lives of coastal communities by providing large scale employment and additional income. It has transformed lives of coastal communities in Japan, China and Korea. Seaweeds bring substantial income from domestic and foreign consumption as they are used for food, in medicine and in a thousand other ways. The Goa government has been promised a fund of Rs 400 crore by the Union fisheries ministry. The state fisheries department could use some of the fund for developing seaweed farming and encouraging fishermen of Goa to get into it.

There is no dearth of knowledge in Goa’s fishing community. They have exploited the sea for generations. They have good knowledge of sea waters and marine biodiversity. Many of them have shown great entrepreneurial spirit. The government can discuss the proposal of seaweed cultivation with the most enterprising among fishermen and identify those who would be interested in taking it up. The government can collect comprehensive information on the experience of seaweed cultivation from Japan, China and Korea. The government should send teams of their officers and potential seaweed cultivators to those countries to see how the cultivation is done. The officers can also learn from their experience what safeguards the government has to put in place in order to avoid any conflict between seaweed farms and other activities in the coastal waters.

The primary thing lacking in Goa is the fisheries department’s ignorance and indifference. It is the scientists of the National Institute of Oceanography (NIO) at Dona Paula who know all about the seaweed species along the coastline of Goa. The officers of the fisheries department need to learn from NIO scientists in this regard. NIO scientists should in fact be made a partner in the initial phases of development of seaweed cultivation. It is a matter of regret that the fisheries department of Goa has not woken up to the huge potential of seaweed farming despite Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman allocating substantial funds in her 2021-22 budget for setting up a multi-purpose seaweed park in Tamil Nadu.  That shows that Tamil Nadu had done the groundwork. Seaweeds are being cultivated by hundreds of fishermen along the Palk Bay coast in Tamil Nadu. They are growing several seaweed species.  Seaweeds are valued for commercial products such as Karrageenan and Agar, besides being used for the production of polysaccharides, fertilizer, sludge and other high-value products such as nutraceuticals and cosmeceuticals for use against various lifestyle diseases. That is why Tamil Nadu was considered appropriate for promoting seaweed cultivation. Goa should have got a seaweed park or a smaller project if it too had done its groundwork.

Seaweeds are a $20-billion business in the world. And it is growing every year. Seaweeds are used for snacks like chips or flakes and for salads and vegetables. They have industrial uses. They are used in the production of fertilizers, cosmetics, soaps, film, paint, varnish and buttons. They are also known for good nutrition. Some of them have good medicinal values. Today three-fourths of the world’s demand for seaweeds is supplied by Japan, China and Korea. India’s seaweed wealth has been treated truly as weed till now. India is waking up to its potential. Goa must wake up too or it will be a laggard among coastal states of India. The state fisheries department must revise its mariculture policy to include development of infrastructure and flow of incentives for promoting seaweed farming. Its mariculture policy has schemes to promote sea cage farming. It is making a very slow progress in promoting sea cage farming. It has to speed it up. And along with that it has to start promoting seaweed farming. The incomes of the coastal communities can go up substantially with a good and diversified maricultural yield that could be exported too.