Underwater gardens to save the planet

(Written by Flo)

I recently watched ‘Seaspiracy’ and it was a brilliant shocking documentary, that got the message ‘Stop eating fish’ across with a punch. And I agree, we do all need to eat a lot less seafood, and industrial fishing needs to stop completely. However, the documentary only lightly touched on the fact that people in coastal communities across the world still need to eat, and only briefly discussed algal based foods as a potential solution.

Here at Seaweed Surf Shack CIC, we’re less doom and gloom, and instead want to share positive solutions to the ocean crisis. This is where restorative ocean farming comes in. We are linked with Câr-Y-Môr – Wales’s first restorative ocean farm growing shellfish and seaweed. This type of ocean farming does not involve any salmon or lice, and is incredibly simple. You have horizontal ropes strung between buoys – the seaweed grows vertically downwards off the ropes, mussel lines hang off the ropes and cages are attached for oysters. The seaweed and shellfish absorb carbon and excess nutrients in the water column as they grow, require no fertiliser or water input, and once harvested, provide a super nutritious, local food source for the community.

Meg showing off some of the sugar kelp growing on the lines
What you can see from the surface of Câr-y-Môr’s ocean farm

The underwater farm also creates a habitat for many marine species, thus also improving local marine ecology. Meg Haines of Câr-Y-Môr described seaweed farming as “like creating underwater gardens. We have the potential to heal entire ecosystems, whilst providing people with local, nutritious and sustainable food”.

And whilst restorative ocean farming is just taking off in the UK, it has been gaining traction abroad for years. Over in Madagascar, ‘Reef Doctor‘ has been working with local communities to develop the seaweed and sea cucumber farming industries. Reef Doctor states their projects ‘assist the transition of fisher folk and turtle hunters into seaweed farming to relieve pressure on natural marine resources and a provide a pathway out of poverty’. Similar projects are being developed in Indonesia and other regions around the world.

So yes, there is such a thing as sustainable seafood. But it comes from beautiful underwater gardens that are healing our oceans, not from industrial fishing fleets with a fake ‘Dolphin safe’ tuna sticker.

Sugar kelp and sea spaghetti drying in the sun
Oyster seeds going in at Câr-y-Môr
Mussels growing on the lines at Câr-y-Môr

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