• Seaweed collection from farms in China



Project lead: Dr Claire Gachon


Worldwide, the seaweed aquaculture industry has been developing at an unabated exponential pace over the past six decades. China, Japan, and Korea are world leaders in term of quantities produced, with other Asiatic countries having an increasingly significant contribution (e.g. Indonesia, Malaysia and Philippines). Seaweed cultivation has also been growing fast in South America and East Africa. 

On the other hand, the UK, European and North American countries have a long tradition of excellent blue sky research in phycology, but little experience in industrial algal cultivation.

This project aims to create a global ambitious network of partners tackling emerging issues in seaweed cultivation (e.g. pests, invasives, pathogens), using a combination of two-way knowledge transfer and community-oriented research activities.

It supports several UK and UNU priority areas, such as food safety, sustainable use of the marine environment and biodiversity. It aims to achieve sustainability and global societal impact through SAMS association to the UNU.


The most serious economic and environmental concern that immediately arises with the introduction of new farming practices, including cultivated seaweeds, is the loss of crops to pests (pathogens, native or non-native fouling organisms, grazers, etc).

A global, proactive research agenda on pests is urgently needed to secure the sustainability and future success of the seaweed industry. As in agriculture, the main avenue towards this aim is genetic improvement of breeds, with disease resistance being one of the most desirable trait to introgress.

However, in stark contrast to land-based agriculture, genetic and molecular determinants of seaweed resistance to biotic and abiotic stressors are dramatically understudied, and this also holds true for the nature and epidemiology of seaweed pathogens.

To fill those knowledge gaps, the GlobalSeaweed project connects world leading  scientists to support and perform pioneering research activities including:

  • >Pathogen identification, culture, and biobanking
  • >Identification of defense-related genes in red and brown algae
  • >Exploitation of the model organism E.siliculosus to study algal pathology
  • >Identification of seaweed pathogens virulence determinants using NGS genomic and transcriptomic strategies

The worldwide macroalgae industry has increased exponentially over the last fifty years. However, increasingly rapid seaweed domestication brings along many crucial challenges. Invasiveness, crop-to-wild gene flow and impacts of pests on native stocks are only few of the many examples that can incur huge environmental and economical damage.

The objective of the GlobalSeaweed project is to support the formulation of UK and worldwide seaweed aquaculture policy to ensure industrial sustainability as well as environmental protection. GlobalSeaweed is connecting policy experts and scientistsall over the world, to produce peer reviewed science-based policy recommandations. This material will be further translated as a UNU Policy Brief, leading to application to UNU as International Project Office (IPO) on Sustainable Seaweed Aquaculture.

GlobalSeaweed policy brief

Events and training coordinated by Dr Yacine Badis

Online GlobalSeaweed course

GlobalSeaweed has developed a free online training course to explore best practice in seaweed cultivation:

'My seaweed looks weird: An introduction to seaweed parasites.'

Past GlobalSeaweed events

Porphyra RCN meeting, Corpus Christi College, Cambridge (31 Mar - 2 Apr 2015)

Porphyra, widely used in Asian cuisine as sushi wrap, is the most valuable seaweed crop worldwide. GlobalSeaweed supported the travel of international experts to a genome annotation jamboree for Porphyra umbilicalis. This major international initiative contributes to generating a high quality genome resource for the research community. 


6th European Phycological Congress Symposium XIII (28 Aug 2015)

GlobalSeaweed sponsored the session 'Omics and genetic resources towards algal domestication' (organisers Mark Cock [Station Biologique Roscoff] & Claire Gachon [SAMS]. 

The rapid development of marine macroalgal aquaculture is fostering research towards high performance strains. This session will span across the breadth of initiatives aiming to characterise and rationalise the exploitation of macroalgal diversity via the rational breeding programs. It will also highlight the power of innovative high throughput omics approaches towards this aim.

Keynote speakers were: Prof. Marie-Laure Guillemin, Prof. Gwang Hoon Kim, Prof. Delin Duan and Prof. Susan H. Brawley.

GlobalSeaweed workshop 1: Seaweed cultivation

Towards the rational exploitation and conservation of algal genetic resources. This course explored the genetic, conservation and policy challenges posed by rapid seaweed domestication. It blended lectures by experts, interactive round tables, field and laboratory sessions. 

Day 1

Recording and preserving algal genetic diversity, anticipating the biological footprint of seaweed cultivation: 
Main speakers: Prof. Juliet Brodie, Dr. Claire Gachon.

1. Rationale: Impact of cultivation on domesticated species and wild stocks
2. Algal Repositories: Herbaria & Culture Collections
3. Molecular characterisation: markers for species delimitation, molecular phylogeny
4. Seaweed monitoring in the 21st century (distribution, abundance, changes)
5. Risks to biodiversity incurred by cultivation and domestication (biological invasions, diseases, biodiversity loss)
6. A short excursion to the seashore, to collect and identify local seaweeds
7. Round table: Policy and operational recommendations to tackle seaweed recording and conservation

Day 2

Unravelling, exploiting and conserving intraspecific diversity for domestication
Main speakers: Dr. Myriam Valero, Dr Yacine Badis

1. Genetic bottlenecks during domestication, importance of basic knowledge on life history traits and local adaptation prior to breeding): the story of Gracilaria chilensis
2. Linking genetic markers to industrially relevant traits: an introduction to QTLs & marker-assisted selection
3. Demonstration of laboratory algal and pathogen cultivation techniques, including a question and answer session in our laboratory facilities for observation / conservation / cultivation of your seaweed material in the presence of several expert tutors
4. Conclusion & final wrap-up: Policy and operational recommendations to rationalise domestication and achieve sustainability

This course was dellivered by Drs Claire Gachon and Yacine Badis from SAMS, Prof Juliet Brodie (Natural History Museum) and Dr Myriam Valero (Roscoff Biological Station). It was for postgraduate, early career researchers and practitioners interested in the burgeoning European seaweed industry. Funded by NERC. Cost was £75 for each of 20 participants

GlobalSeaweed workshop 2: European Seaweed Production 

13 – 14 May 2015, SAMS

A joint workshop between the projects EnAlgae, IDREEM, AT~SEA, SeaBioPlas, Atlantic Blue Tech, the GlobalSeaweed network and BICA

Day 1

Topic 1: Biomass and Productivity: towards best practices
1D to 2D: Saccharina latissima productivity on seaweed longlines, rafts and textiles
Seaweed production in IMTA open-sea and land-based systems: advantages and constraints. 

Topic 2: Social acceptability: tackling the challenges of integrating seaweed cultivation in NWE
Societal Perspectives on Seaweed Aquaculture: Monoculture and IMTA Explored
The social acceptability of IMTA

Topic 3: Economics: From research data to commercial reality
Unravelling the costs of the 2-phase seaweed cultivation process: an EnAlgae economic analysis
The economics of large-scale cultivation
Tailored seaweed for bioplastics: the process and some costs - is the market ready for it?

Topic 4: Biological Sustainability of seaweed cultivation in a changing world
Changes in abundance of the large brown seaweeds
Optimising the exploitation and preservation of seaweed genetic resources

Day 2

Session: Enhancing seaweed marketability workshop
The Atlantic Blue Tech Project: Recommendations for the development of the marine bio-resources business sector
The Biomarine International Clusters Association (BICA) – An introduction
Quality Requirements for Seaweed Marketability – setting up the bases of the BICA’s Seaweed partnership. Industry-focused panel discussion
A highly functional international association for the marine bioresources sector - Open discussion

Boat tours to seaweed farm

GlobalSeaweed at international conferences

Invited talk in Theo Murphy meeting Into the genome: advances in the world of algal genomics, May 2016, Royal Society, Chicheley Hall, UK, co-organised by Profs. Juliet Brodie and Debashish Bhattacharya: 'Into the transcriptomes and genomes of red and brown algal oomycete pathogens' Listen to the presentation...

Oomycete Molecular Genetics Network Annual Meeting, Malmö, Sweden, June 2016: 'Pythium porphyrae the agent of the red seaweed rot disease: a reformed plant pathogen'. Badis et al. AND 'The pathogens of brown algae Anisolpidium ectocarpii and Anisolpidium rosenvingei define a new class of marine anteriorly uniciliate oomycetes' Gachon et al.

International Seaweed Symposium 2016, Copenhagen, Denmark, June 2016: 'Mechanisms and heritability of disease resistance in brown algae' Martina Strittmatter et al. AND 'Towards aquatic phenomics: introducing nephelometry for non-invasive biomass measurement and growth monitoring of multicellular algae' Benoit Calmes et al. AND 'Pythium porphyrae the agent of the red seaweed rot disease: a reformed plant pathogen?' Badis et al.