Seaweed production is on the rise as people are searching for nutritious foods.
Seaweed is hot. So says an article on seattlepi.com, and the numbers are supporting the claim.
Ironically, the state of Maine, known best for its lobsters and other seafood dishes, is the number one producer of seaweed food products in the United States. There are more than 20 companies that harvest or collect seaweed in the state, more than twice the number they had in 2005.
Last year, harvesters collected 17.7 million pounds of seaweed, more that four times as much as in 2004, and the most ever harvested in the state of Maine. The state passed California as the leading producer of seaweed in the United States back in 2006, and continues to lead the way.
Hillary Krapf, founder of the Maine Seaweed Festival, said that Maine was excited about seaweed, and added the world is also. The festival, held in South Portland, drew over 3,000 people in only its second year of existence last month, doubling the first year’s total visitors.
Seaweed production worldwide is a 25-million ton business, with China, Indonesia, the Philippines, South Korea and Japan supplying most of the world’s seaweed production.
Seaweed is formed from marine algae, and there are a number of varieties. The most common type that is harvested in Maine is the Rockwell variety, but harvesters say there is interest in at least nine other varieties of seaweed as food. Seaweed contains a high concentration of nutrients and is being touted as a healthy eating alternative to processed food snacks.
Other Maine varieties being used heavily are sugar kelp, which can be used in the place of pasta, and the Irish moss variety, that is being used in the brewing of beer.
Some have concerns about the increased harvesting of the seaweed off the coasts, worried that the lack of seaweed could lead to damage to the ecosystems in the area, and some sound the praises of seaweed aquaculture, saying it would be important to start seaweed farms to sustain the industry. There are a number of seaweed aquaculture companies doing business in the state today.
Susan Brawley, a botanist at the University of Maine, said more people are becoming interested in sea vegetables, and Americans have a better understanding about eating nutritious foods.