Aotearoa New Zealand’s seaweed sector is ready to boom

7 October 2022

This piece is published with permission from Sustainable Seas National Science Challenge.

A roadmap, launched today, shows how Aotearoa New Zealand could grow its rimurimu/seaweed sector in a way for the country to gain economically, environmentally, socially and culturally.

An exciting opportunity for Aotearoa, rimurimu/seaweed can be turned into a range of products, from food and fertiliser to sunscreen and nutraceuticals. Some companies in Aotearoa are beginning to farm rimurimu/seaweed commercially with others in the planning stages.

Sustainable Seas National Science Challenge has funded co-development of the Seaweed Sector Framework to encourage a flourishing, intergenerational sector – one that does good business while upholding the mana of the moana and communities around Aotearoa. This includes ensuring a wide range of people are involved in the seaweed sector, developing high-value products, creating jobs, and environmental benefits by farming sustainably.

Researchers from Cawthron Institute and EnviroStrat led the development of the Framework, working with people from throughout Aotearoa in an inclusive, collaborative effort with diverse views and interests. The framework outlines a vision of what Aotearoa’s future seaweed industry could look like and sets out a pathway for getting there. It provides a roadmap of priorities and knowledge gaps, and has been refined via industry case studies, including CH4 Global, Kelp Blue, Pacific Harvest, Premium Seas, and Te Whānau-ā-Apanui.

“The research collaboration helped bring people together to make connections and build a community. The resulting Framework was co-developed and reflects multiple voices. It also outlines practical steps to grow the rimurimu/seaweed sector. Now the industry and individual companies need to use the Framework as they see fit, refining it as they need,” says Rob Major, who leads the Sustainable Seas Challenge project and is a marine scientist at Cawthron Institute.

Nigel Bradly, CEO of EnviroStrat: “Since developing this idea three years ago, we have integrated multiple perspectives to ensure we understand the opportunities, risks and priorities for the emerging seaweed sector. As a country we have a unique opportunity to influence the sector before it has fully developed; this enables us to identify and prioritise opportunities to achieve the vision that rimurimu/seaweed contributes significantly to New Zealand’s economy and supports thriving ecosystems, communities, and culture. The Framework also clearly recognises the risks and challenges facing the sector and identifies ways to deal with these. We tested and refined the Framework through case studies with five seaweed sector pioneers in New Zealand to ensure it is fit for purpose and of value to future users.”

The Framework is being launched at the Seaweed Summit on 7 October 2022 – a jointly organised event between the Sustainable Seas Challenge, Cawthron Institute, the recently launched Aotearoa New Zealand Seaweed Association (ANZSA) and Aquaculture NZ. It has attracted attendees from all aspects of the sector, from government to iwi to marine farmers to sustainable banking to chefs.

One of the project’s main recommendations has already been met with the launch of a new ‘sector voice’, the Aotearoa New Zealand Seaweed Association (ANZSA), which is focused on building a sustainable, high-value seaweed industry for the future.

Clare Bradley, Chair of ANZSA: “Interest in seaweed aquaculture is growing around the world as an opportunity for positive environmental and social outcomes. In many cases, this interest is being backed by significant international investment. To ensure we grow a sector with enduring benefits for Aotearoa New Zealand, we need a similar level of investment in quality research and value chains that deliver healthy ecosystems and high value products.

“We must also acknowledge a Te Ao Māori perspective. Respecting the whakapapa, mātauranga and the relationships mana whenua and mana moana have with rimurimu (seaweed) to understand the value of this taonga for future generations. The recent work by Sustainable Seas Challenge to release the Seaweed Sector Framework begins to identify challenges and opportunities for the sector. As ANZSA we look to take this Framework out into the seaweed sector and the communities that this kaupapa serves.”

International eDNA workshop held in Queenstown
Rob Major

Rob Major

Cawthron Marine Scientist and Seaweed Sector Framework co-lead. 

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