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Could seaweed be Wales’ new superpower?

Future Generations Commissioner for Wales, Derek Walker, at Câr-y-Môr, regenerative seaweed farm in Pembrokeshire.

Wales needs to unlock the super-power of seaweed, says Future Generations Commissioner for Wales, Derek Walker.

This week, Derek Walker co-hosted an event with The Earthshot Prize and WWF Cyrmu to celebrate the growing Welsh seaweed industry.

The Prince of Wales, President, Earthshot Prize, was also in attendance.

A Seaweed Future in Wales, at Cardiff Metropolitan University, explored leading innovation in the seaweed industry and how more investment and support could develop a regenerative seaweed farming future for the nation.

A 12-month study ‘Project Madoc’ led by the Seaweed Alliance, found 50% of the marine area of Wales is suitable for cultivating kelp, with the potential to build a £105 million industry and create close to 1,000 jobs.
Wales has an opportunity to develop a sustainable, regenerative industry, it concluded, with applications from food products, agricultural uses, to paper and packaging leading to improved water quality, coastal protection and enhanced biodiversity.

Seaweed farming is known as ‘regenerative ocean farming’. This is because of the positive impact it has on the environment. Regenerative ocean farms create habitat, nursery grounds and shelter for fish and other marine life. The seaweed also absorbs carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus from the ocean making it easier for other species to thrive.

Wales is the only country in the world with a Well-being of Future Generations Act, which requires public bodies to work together to ensure improved cultural, economic, environmental and social well-being for people living now and in the future.

The commissioner, whose role includes challenging public bodies including Welsh Government to prepare for long-term problems and opportunities, chaired a discussion on the potential of a properly managed seaweed industry.

Mr Walker, who has called for Welsh Government to set out a robust plan for growing a seaweed industry in Wales, said:

“With a coastline of 1,680 miles and being surrounded by water on three sides, it seems obvious for Wales to be exploring the benefits of seaweed and a new blue economy.

“Like other nations all over the globe, we’re facing huge economic, environmental and health challenges and I’m excited about how investing in the cornerstone of one of our national dishes could bring multiple benefits, from green jobs to improving the food system, and supporting Wales and the world reduce the impacts of climate change.

“Having seen the results of some of the work happening in Wales already, I’m excited about the possibility of seaweed being Wales’ new superpower.”
Attendees at the event included Câr-y-Môr, who run a regenerative seaweed farm in Pembrokeshire, which was also the location for the Future Generations Commissioner’s accompanying film to his seven-year strategy, Cymru Can.

Wales’ first community-owned, regenerative seaweed and shellfish farm is an example of how people wanting to change the world are using the Well-being of Future Generations Act to challenge and break down barriers.

The community benefits society based in St David’s, Pembrokeshire used the Act to appeal a short-term marine license. The appeal was successful and now they have a 20-year license to produce sustainable Welsh seaweed and farm native oysters and mussels off the coast at Ramsey Sound, where they are monitoring the impact of the farm on the marine environment and biodiversity along with benefits for the climate.
Gareth Clubb, Director of WWF Cymru said:

“WWF has been supporting the development of regenerative seaweed farming for a number of years, due to its ability to bring benefits for our climate, it being a source of healthy food, its ability to improve ocean health, and it can help diversify the livelihoods of people living in often peripheral communities. WWF has been working with Câr-y-Môr on community engagement and biodiversity monitoring, as well as exploring the different benefits and potential uses of seaweed in the UK.”