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155469 - The empirical evidence for the social-ecological impacts of seaweed.pdf (1.95 MB)

The empirical evidence for the social-ecological impacts of seaweed farming

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-21, 16:33 authored by Spillias, S, Rachel KellyRachel Kelly, Richard CottrellRichard Cottrell, O'Brien, KR, Im, R-Y, Kim, JY, Lei, C, Leung, RWS, Matsuba, M, Reis, JA, Sato, Y, Sempert, K, McDonald-Madden, E
Seaweed farming is widely expected to transform the way we approach sustainable developments, particularly in the context of the ‘Blue Economy’. However, many claims of the social and ecological benefits from seaweed farming have limited or contextually weak empirical grounding. Here we systematically review relevant publications across four languages to form a comprehensive picture of observed—rather than theorised—social and environmental impacts of seaweed farming globally. We show that, while some impacts such as improved water quality and coastal livelihoods are consistently reported, other promulgated benefits vary across cultivation contexts or are empirically unsubstantiated. For some communities, increasing dependence on seaweed farming may improve or worsen the cultural fabric and their vulnerability to economic and environmental shocks. The empirical evidence for the impacts of seaweed farming is also restricted geographically, mainly to East Asia and South-East Asia, and taxonomically. Seaweed farming holds strong potential to contribute to sustainability objectives, but the social and ecological risks associated with scaling up global production remain only superficially understood. These risks require greater attention to ensure just, equitable, and sustainable seaweed industries can be realised.


Publication title

PLOS Sustainability and Transformation

Article number







Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies


Public Library of Science

Place of publication

United States

Rights statement

© 2023 Spillias et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

Repository Status

  • Open

Socio-economic Objectives

Fisheries - aquaculture not elsewhere classified; Environmentally sustainable plant production not elsewhere classified