SAMS news room

Seaweed scientist joins UN-led coalition

Prof Elizabeth Cottier-Cook of SAMS is helping to lead the Safe Seaweed Coalition
Prof Elizabeth Cottier-Cook of SAMS is helping to lead the Safe Seaweed Coalition

A Scottish scientist is helping to spearhead a global movement to support farmers of seaweed, a crop that some academics regard as the greatest untapped resource on the planet.

Seaweed has a significant role in food security, climate change mitigation, supporting biodiversity in marine ecosystems and contributing to job creation and poverty alleviation. It also provides a nutritious source of food to humans and animals and some compounds can be used as a substitute for plastics as well as for natural fertilizers or new medical treatments. When grown, seaweed can support ocean ecosystems and remove excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

However, global warming has threatened the industry’s sustainability: warming oceans increase the risk of crop disease and encourages movement of non-native species into new areas.

Prof Elizabeth Cottier-Cook from the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS) in Oban is part of the steering committee of the Safe Seaweed Coalition, a global movement launched today (March 17) by The United Nations (UN) Global Compact and Lloyd’s Register Foundation, in partnership with the France’s Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique.

Focusing on the core objectives of consumer safety, environmental safety and operational safety, the Safe Seaweed Coalition will bring together diverse stakeholders from across the industry to unlock the full potential of seaweed to contribute to the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Prof Cottier-Cook, who also heads up the UK Research and Innovation-funded GlobalSeaweedSTAR programme, said: “The world is seeking solutions to how we feed the ever-increasing global population, mitigate the impacts of climate change and support the economic prosperity of developing nations. A sustainable and successful global seaweed industry can help to address these issues.

“In GlobalSeaweedSTAR we work with seaweed farmers and scientists in Tanzania, Malaysia and the Philippines and it is clear that climate change is having an impact on this industry, which supports coastal communities in these countries and beyond.

“With entire crops now being lost to the effects of ocean warming and a lack of biosecurity, we must act as a global population to give this industry protection and prosperity.”

The Safe Seaweed Coalition builds on the recommendations outlined in the Seaweed Manifesto, a collaborative report developed by the Lloyd’s Register Foundation and the UN Global Compact in 2020 to establish the critical infrastructure, regulations and technologies required to bring the industry to scale.

Vincent Doumeizel, Director of the Food Programme at Lloyd’s Register Foundation and Senior Advisor to the UN Global Compact, commenting on the Coalition’s launch, said: “Seaweed may well be the greatest untapped resource on the planet. This nascent industry is currently highly disconnected and lacking in global safety standards to scale up. Safety is a pre-competitive topic and a great point of convening. By coming together in solidarity, we can leverage seaweed to address some of the most pressing global challenges.”

The Financial Times hosted the public digital event to launch the Safe Seaweed Coalition. More information on how to register for the launch can be found here.