Around 3 crore people in 19 coastal districts depend on the sea for their daily livelihood
The Bangladesh Fish Research Institute (BFRI) has recognized 10 species of seaweed as commercially viable for consumption in the country.
"Cultivation of these seaweeds will develop an alternative livelihood for coastal people," said experts at a “Seaweed Cultivation in the Coast: Prospect and Research Advancement” workshop, held at Krishibid Institution Bangladesh on Wednesday.
Scientists at Bangladesh Fish research institute (BFRI) have found 116 species of seaweed in coastal areas. Among the commercially viable species, Hypnea is the most available coastally, and a cultivator would be able to partially harvest it every 15 days.
There is a lot of iodine in Hypnea seaweed which may reduce iodine deficiency, they said.
State Minister for Fisheries and Livestock, M Ashraf Ali Khan Khasru, chief guest at the programme, said: “Besides fish and shrimp, we have other non-traditional marine resources including crab, oyster, snail, and seaweed. Most of our people do not know about the nutritional value of seaweed.”
"The government is working on developing these resources, maintaining equilibrium in environmental and ecological conservation," he said.
“By cultivating seaweed, coastal people will not only get an alternative livelihood but also be able to advance their lives,” he said.
Md Towfiqul Arif, joint secretary (Blue Economy) to the ministry was special guest and Md Mohudul Islam from BFRI presented the keynote paper.
Mohidul said: “Saint Martin’s island is the hotspot for seaweed cultivation. BFRI also found a reasonable amount of seaweed in Teknaf, Bakkhali, Inani Kuakata, and the Sundarbans.”
“A farmer can make Tk 12000 to 14000 in a season, investing only Tk 1200. If he invests he will earn more. We tried three methods of cultivation. The Vertical Net method is the best for producing more seaweed. BFRI research produced 14-31kg of seaweed per square metre,” he said.
Modern technology needed
Md Raisul Alam Mandal, secretary to the ministry of fisheries and livestock, said: “It’s necessary to use modern technology to increase production of non-traditional marine resources. Almost three crore people live in 19 coastal districts, and most of them depend on the sea for their daily livelihood. Promoting seaweed cultivation techniques among coastal people can change their lives.”
The current annual global demand for seaweed is about 26 million tons. Asian countries produced 80% for world markets where China alone produces half of the total demand. The top six seaweed producing countries are China, Indonesia, Philippines, North and South Korea, and Japan.
BFRI director general, Dr Yahia Mahmud, presided over the workshop, while director general of the department of fisheries, Abu Sayed Md Rashedul Haque, was special guest.
Other uses of seaweed and its cultivation season
Seaweed is sometimes used as fertilizer,and some species are used to produce dairy food and salt. The medicine, textile, and paper industries, also use seaweed as raw material. November to April is the most suitable time for Hypnea cultivation, said an expert.
Seaweed cultivation is much cheaper than other crops as it does not need any fertilizer, medicine, or herbicides. A net investment of Tk 1200 on four square metres, can yield 60-80 kg of seaweed every 15 days.
Seaweed is full of nutrients. Coming in a multitude of colours, textures, shapes, and sizes, all seaweeds contain a rich supply of minerals, most prominently calcium, copper, iodine, and iron. Seaweed is also rich in protein, fibre, and vitamins, specifically vitamin K and folic acid, and is low in calories and fat.