21st International Seaweed Symposium – Day 2

After a tumultuous first day, in which the brain was saturated with impressions of color, shape, flavor and facts, we now enter to the second day. Today it is presentation at the mini-symposium on my part, and in the afternoon it is the poster session for me and Lena.

Vår poster, med gummi-receptakler.

Our poster, with rubber receptacles.

During the coffee breaks one can eat anything and everything that is based on seaweed. It gets very jello… We have also tried seaweed sausages, seaweed nuggets, seaweed-sate (this was the tastiest, very nice and spicy) and seaweed pepes (wrapped in banana leaves and grilled).

Behöver vi ens kommentera?

Should we even comment on this one?

Det finns MÅNGA sätt att använda alger i matlagning.

There are MANY ways of using algae in cooking.

We aim to find as many seaweed-products as possible to take home with us.

Weedy products

An abundance of products.

But first, a summary of the mornings scientific talks.

Mini-Symposium: Human and natural impacts on seaweed beds.

Dr. Muraoka and Dr. Fujita, both from Japan, showed how the tsunami that hit the Japanese East Coast In March 2011 has affected life in the sea. This was very interesting, because the news have generally focused on what happened on land.

In areas near the epicenter, a large acreage of seagrass meadows has disappeared. The tsunami swept over the smaller peninsulas and also destroyed many sheltered bays. But now, in 2012, it has begun to recover. However, it will take a few years, but it points in the right direction.

One of the major problems for plant life in the ocean was all the particles that were flushed out in the water. This hindered light from penetrating any deeper than 4 meters.

In Onmae Bay, there was many fish- and mussel farms before the tsunami. There were problems with fouling of the kelp species Saccharina japonica on cultivation cages and mussel ropes. An estimated 90 tons (!) of kelp grew on the farms per year. This compares to one ton of kelp from the protected rocky shores near (where sea urchins grazed extensively) and 10 tons from more wave exposed places where sea urchins could not graze.

The growth of Saccharina japonica is also favored by the nutrients coming from fish- and mussel farms. From the time of reproduction in November until May they grew a full 2 meters! The kelp is favored by good water circulation, which was higher out on the farms than on the natural hard bottom.

Today, there are large amounts of garbage from every house and car that were washed out to sea by the tsunami wave. Many breakwaters and other structures that sheltered beaches also disappeared. This has benefited the recovery of the kelp, as its worst enemy, the sea urchins, cannot graze as intensively in areas with large waves.

As they are beginning to recover from the disaster, the sea urchin fishery have commenced again. This has also helped the kelp to re-establish.

As the kelp has come back again as fouling out on the new farms, it is now a different species, Petalonia fascia, which dominates. This proved to be a problem, because it is not nearly as efficient at taking up nitrate and ammonium as Saccharina japonica. It therefore has become a problem of high nitrogen levels in the cages. There is a difference between seaweed and seaweed, you see.
So, now they are working to bring back the “right” kelp, Saccharina japonica, to avoid the kind of problems that can be caused by too much nutrients in the water. The worst of these are blooms of microalgae, so-called red tides, which can also cause shell toxin blooms, where toxic algae accumulate in mussels and other filter feeders, which becomes deadly if consumed.

So, although the system was influenced very strongly by the tsunami, it’s slowly recovering.

Presentations: Cultivation techniques II

The recurring themes in most presentations are about the importance of educating local people and create awareness. Both regarding how to grow and harvest seaweed, but also to explain the benefits and importance of creating an integrated aquaculture with many different species for an ecologically sustainable use of the ocean.

This is not a problem unique to the tropical countries. Ignorance of how to create sustainable aquaculture is found in all countries. When aquaculture first came into the limelight during the 70’s, it was first seen as the solution to the problem of protein deficiency. But it was soon discovered that large monocultures fed intensively, sometimes even with large amounts of antibiotics, were not as good as first believed. They created negative effects, and the general opinion about aquaculture turned to become negative.

To only cultivate large quantities of a single species that is in the top of the food chain is not the best way to engage in aquaculture. By co-culturing, as many gardeners know the profitability of, you can both reduce the negative effects of nutrients and also gain one or more additional products that provide income. Additionally, it provides a redundancy, not to put all eggs in one basket. Too high a density of a species makes it vulnerable to diseases and parasites. By growing more sparse, but overall more, you avoid risking the harvest to a nasty little parasite or a virus and you do not need to use antibiotics to the same extent.

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21st International Seaweed Symposium – Day 1

Overwhelming! That’s the word that remains after you have entered the Bali Nusa Dua Conference Center and see all exhibitors showing 101 use of seaweed.

A phletora of products involving seaweed.

A phletora of products involving seaweed.

It is quite often I get to inform people that algae is actually a common ingredient in many of the products we use daily, such as shampoo, soap and toothpaste. But there are more represented here than I thought possible! Many companies producing various substances from seaweed are represented, followed by those that further refines the extracted elements to create all manner of products. Most exciting is of course the abundance of food with algae, both in pure form, such as seaweed snacks and jelly in different shapes (and colors!) made of agar agar extracted from seaweed. And it’s a tasting of everything! This is not a conference you go away hungry from. Possibly you have set the stage for diabetes, though.

There is no end to what gastronomy can do with seaweed!

There is no end to what gastronomy can do with seaweed!

We will post pictures, both in blog posts and in the gallery, so that you who are following the blog may take part of the diversity.

The opening ceremony of the conference began with a traditional Balinese dance and the Indonesian national anthem, followed by a number of prominent dignitaries, who in five minutes per person explained that they were pleased and proud that the conference was held here in Bali and that algae are an important part of the region’s economy and important global product. At least I think that’s what was said, when many spoke in Indonesian. But the audience seemed pleased and it was much applause. In the audience were amongst others the Fisheries Ministers from Tanzania and Morocco and Bali’s trade and industry minister.

There are a total of 38 countries participating in the symposium, most from the so-called Coral Triangle (Indonesia, Sulawesi and the Philippines) but Europe is well represented. The country with the highest number of presentations is Malaysia (57), followed by Indonesia (47), with France (31: Not bad.) in third place.

The flags of all participating nations.

The flags of all participating nations.

Mini Symposium: Integrated mulit-trophic aquaculture IMTA
Aquaculture is not without problems, as most of you probably already know. One example are fish farms, which releases nitrogen and other substances in the water around it and on the bottom under the cages. To reduce the negative effects one can grow several different species together, where the waste of one becomes the other’s nutrients. Here, seaweed is a major factor.

Alejandro H. Buschmann began by summarizing the need for more research on how seaweed work in co-cultures, if they can transfer infections between each other or to animals, and that more research is needed on integrated culture of species from different trophic levels.

Helena Abreu presented the IMTA studies conducted in Europe, which is far behind Asia in this aspect, focusing on seaweed cultivation. For example, they tried to reduce the negative environmental impacts of land-based fish farms in Norway and France by growing Ulva spp (sea lettuce) as nitrogen cleaner. The important thing is to get a seaweed product that there is a market for, either as food, fertilizer or to extract different substances from.

Interest in IMTA growing in Europe, especially since there is a need for greater production of aquaculture animals, and therefore a need for more waste treatment, but also the need for a diversity of organisms to grow, in order to have safer and more sustainable systems. The interest in seaweed is huge in Europe, not only as food but also as an ingredient in skin products and for the extraction of biofuel.

With the increased need, it is important to assess that farming and harvesting are done in a sustainable way, so that one does not get a boom-and-bust problem, taking out too much and causing the system to collaps.
In addition to the biological and technological challenges, where fish farmers should learn to cultivate a new species, there are also some regulatory barriers that need to be resolved.

Today, it is mainly Norway, Portugal, France, Ireland and Denmark that grow seaweed on a large scale in Europe. They grow mainly kelp species, mostly Saccharina latissima which can be found on our Swedish west coast, too. In Denmark, there is co-farming of kelp with trout and clams or only kelp and mussels. The kelp is grown on long ropes that hang freely in the water, looking a bit like a clothesline.

In Brittany, France, oysters and algae are farmed together. Here, it is the green alga Ulva (Sea lettuce) that is growing on oyster cages. In Portugal (using the water outside Senegal) they are cultivating kelp with sole (the flat fish), something that is also tried on the Canary Islands. In Ireland, they grow the delicious brown alga Alaria esculenta together with salmon.

In order to extract as much as possible from farmed algae there is a project to create a macroalgae biorefinery. This is collaboration between several European countries, hoping to launch a thriving seaweed culture industry also in Europe, once the current financial crisis has been resolved.

Contributed papers: Cultivation techniques

Agar is extracted from the cell walls of agar producing seaweed such as Gracillaria sp. Depending on whether the seaweed are grown in large tanks on land, in larger ponds or in the ocean, there is a variation in growth rate, growth of fouling algae, susceptibility to various diseases and the chemical content of the algae.

In Malaysia, Dr Su has assessed the pros and cons associated with each method, and also tried other methods. This included the use of floating net cages, which are often used in fish farming. They also let spores settle on fixed bottom nets and ropes, which gave a greater return on the ropes over the nets. Problems connected with ropes and nets were primarily that many other species also liked to grow there (fouling).

Dr Su from Malaysia explains her findings in culture methods.

Dr Su from Malaysia explains her findings in culture methods.

To evaluate which method was the best, not only in quantity algae produced per unit of time, they also analyzed the finished agar powder to compare the quality of the product. They found that from some areas the product contained excessive levels of lead, too high to be sold as food. The water chemistry and pollution history of an area are important to take into account when determining whether to start growing seaweed for consumption.
The main problems, though, are still grazing and unwanted growth of other species (fouling).

Norwegian salmon farming is growing rapidly. Up in Trondheim, where there are plenty of salmon farms, they have grown Saccharina latissima outside the salmon pens. The seaweed are seeded on long ropes in the lab, then hung out in the water.
Saccharina latissima is seeded in August and will not grow much during the dark winter. But when the light comes back in February to March it starts growing and keep growing strongly until June, where it reaches its maximum. This is harvest time. If you leave it any longer it begins to deteriorate and get more fouled by animals and other algae. Also, the highest concentrations of carbohydrates (alginate, laminated aria and mannitol) are in June.

Saccharina latissima grows best at 5 meters depth, where there is just the right amount of light, neither too much nor too little. Saccharina latissima grown in a salmon farm grew a full 50% more! Norway is ideally situated in order to develop a profitable seaweed faming industry and develop a more integrated aquaculture.

A study from the UK compared various plastic materials in order to find out what kind of surface and chemical composition that is best for seeding and growth of two different species of kelp (Laminaria digitata and Saccharina latissima).

They tried 12 (!) different plastics with different chemical properties, including a plastic consisting of phenol-formaldehyde resin (super toxic!) to see how sensitive the small spores are (kelp, unlike bladderwrack, has spores).

The competition between the two kelp species were checked after seeding, after 5 weeks, after being moved outdoors and after 3 months. Saccharina latissima is more tolerant to the chemical than Laminaria digitata and grew better on most plastics (few to none survived on the super toxic). It seems that plastic is not the best substrate to cultivate Laminaria digitata, but most plastics work well for growing Saccharina latissima. If you want to grow both species, the best plastics are PE, PP and PVC, apparently.

It’s Seaweed Time!

After a long and cold winter in Sweden, it is finally time for the 21st Intenational Seaweed Symposium to kick off in Bali.

There are more than 500 participants and the program is full of interesting talks, mini-symposia and posters. For full details, download the programs on the symposium website.

We will endeavour to summarize the different topics presented during the symposia, so that our followers have plenty to discuss over coffee or tea.

While we are waiting for the registration to open, here are som pictures of seaweed that we have already found, while acklimatizing to the climate and timezone (read: been on a holiday here). Enjoy!

A green entanglemetn of Chaetomorpha

A green entanglemetn of Chaetomorpha

A beautiful red algae.

A beautiful red algae.

This one reminds me of Furcellaria lumbricalis.

This one reminds me of Furcellaria lumbricalis.

Global interest in Baltic seaweed

Since we launched Tångbloggen, our original Swedish blog about seaweed in the Baltic Sea, we have had over 4000 visitors from 33 different countries around the world.
It is wonderful that there is a global interest in the seaweeds of the Baltic Sea! In order to get a better overview of this interest, we took a picture of the total number of visitors per country today(2nd April 2013).

Dessa länder har besökt Tångbloggen fram till idag (2013-04-02)

These countries have visited Tångbloggen up until today (2nd April 2013)

To further spread the interest and knowledge of the Baltic Sea seaweeds, we are now heading for Bali to participate in the 21st International Seaweed Symposium.

We will of course blog live from the conference so that our followers can get the latest in seaweed research served piping hot, both here and on Tångbloggen (in Swedish).