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Algae cultivation to contribute towards sustainable development

Chiloe Island, 10th Region, Chile


The use of large marine algae as a foodstuff, as animal feed or as agricultural fertiliser is a traditional economic activity in many areas of the globe, but one which has often been curbed by cultural and economic developments. In many cases algae cultivation provided employment for the poorer sections of the population, and it has been developed and utilised on a larger scale in only a few areas such as Brittany, Japan and in China in particular.


Over the past few years, however, it has become clear that algae provides some interesting opportunities for modern economic usage as a valuable source of raw materials for the pharmaceutical and chemical industries and as a β€œnew” foodstuff, in addition to its more traditional uses. The other side of the coin, however, is reflected in the industrial use of this resource which is still highly labour-intensive, together with technological hindrances arising from the relatively low level of development of this special form of marine business activity.


Accompanying the increasing demand for algae products, however, are specific ecological challenges in the use of this resource. Exploiting the existing wild stocks does not normally follow environmental principles. Sustainable cultivation is therefore only found in isolated cases.


The aquaculture of large marine algae remains a good starting point for cooperative-based economic activities, especially in developing countries. This is because employment opportunities can be created here with a relatively low level of investment, and these opportunities can open up economic – and in the right circumstances, environmentally beneficial – prospects for coastal populations; whether as a raw material for foodstuffs, as fertiliser, as nutrient sinks or as a source of raw materials for the chemical and pharmaceutical industries.



The project


Over the past 10 years, the amount of salmon farming has increased dramatically in southern Chile. This relatively new economic sector for Chile now has a highly industrialised character and Chilean salmon dominates the world marketplace alongside Norwegian salmon. This has resulted in a certain economic upturn in the previously scarcely industrialised 10th Region. However, the emissions from the salmon industry represent a considerable burden on the marine environment.


Despite official efforts to control the dynamic rate of growth, there is no consensual opinion at a regional or even a national or international level with regard to the effects on the marine environment, nor are there any suitable methods for the environmentally friendly integration of this sector of industry into regional development.


The other side of the story is that the algae cultivation is an especially ecologically acceptable form of modern aquaculture. Algae has always been a traditional resource in this region and was being used a considerable time ago, e.g. in agriculture as fertiliser for potato production. Chiloe is one of the main centres of potato growing with an exceptional number of varieties.


Combining algae and salmon aquaculture provides opportunities to moderate the negative impact of fish farming and to generate additional environmental and economic uses. Linked to traditional forms of industry, new opportunities can be developed for the sustainable management of marine resources. The focus of this project is therefore to support the diversification of the use of marine resources and to develop new, environmentally friendly methods and techniques for the aquaculture of large marine algae to contribute to the sustainable development of Chiloe Island and the marine environment.


This will only be possible by successfully integrating all the groups involved. The long-term aim of the project is therefore to initiate local discussion on sustainable development of the islands in the 10th Region.



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