- Seaweeds are primitive marine, non-flowering algae without roots, stems and leaves.
- Seaweeds are generally anchored to the sea bottom or other solid structures by rootlike “holdfasts,” which perform the sole function of attachment and do not extract nutrients as do the roots of higher plants.
- Large seaweeds form dense underwater forests known as kelp forests, which act as underwater nurseries for fish, snails and sea urchins.
- Seaweeds are a part of the diet in Asian countries like Japan, China, Korea, etc.
- Found in shallow as well as deep waters in the intertidal regions. An abundant population of seaweeds is found in the Gulf of Mannar.
Significance of Seaweeds:
- Seaweeds trap and remove heavy metals found in marine ecosystems. Since seaweeds depend on iron for photosynthesis, they also capture excess amounts of iron from the water.
- Absorb excess nutrients and balance out the ecosystems.
- Supply oxygen through photosynthesis.
- Used as fertilizers to increase aquaculture production.
- Used in pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, paints and toothpaste.
- Help in climate mitigation. Afforestation of 9% of the ocean with seaweeds can lead to sequestration (storage) of 53 Billion tonnes of carbon dioxide annually.
Initiatives related to seaweeds at the national level:
- The Technology information, forecasting and assessment council (TIFAC) has launched the Seaweed mission. The aim is to increase India’s share in the total global seaweed production, a market that is worth USD 12 Million. India’s share amounts to a meagre 0.01-0.02%. The mission is being launched to promote commercial seaweed farming and its processing for value addition towards boosting the national economy. The formation of a new seaweed industry will:
(i) enhance ocean productivity,
(ii) abate algal blooms,
(iii) provide raw material for production of 6.6 billion litres of bioethanol,
(iv) create additional employment.
- “Seaweed farming is an emerging sector with potential to transform the lives of coastal communities. It will provide large scale employment and additional incomes. To promote seaweed cultivation, I propose a Multipurpose Seaweed Park to be established in Tamil Nadu.” – Finance Minister, Budget Speech