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Sustainable Seaweed Potential and Cultivation in Indonesia

Author: Muhammad Azril(Aquaculture Specialist) -  
Translated: Arif Fajar Sulistyo


Ready to harvest Eucheuma cottonii/ ©WWF-Indonesia/Nur Ahyani
Ready to harvest Eucheuma cottonii/ ©WWF-Indonesia/Nur Ahyani

Two-thirds of Indonesia is surrounded by ocean, rich and abundant with marine and fishery resource potential. Indonesia’s maritime area is 6,400,000 km2 followed by a coastline length of 110,000 km. Indonesia consists of 27.2% of flora and fauna species from all over the world, one of which is seaweed with 8.6% of the world’s marine biota potential. Weber Van Bosse on the Siboga Sea expedition in 1899-1900 revealed that Indonesia has 782 types of seaweed from 8,642 species of seaweed in the world. Three types of seaweed have the potential to grow in Indonesia namely red algae (Rhodophyceae)as many as 452 types, green algae (Chlorophyceae) as many as 196 types, and brown algae (Phaeophyceae) with the number of about 134 types.

Seaweed cultivation is one of the efforts made to maximize the utilization of seaweed potential, whereas production from the cultivation sector sums up to 98%, the remaining 2% is harvested from nature. Indonesia’s seaweed cultivation potential is around 12.13 million hectares, but its utilization only covered 4.5% (2.96 million hectares) for Gracilaria sp. cultivation located in farms with a polyculture system with milkfish/shrimp and the other 2.25% (272,336 hectares) for Eucheuma sp. cultivation located in coastal farms with a monoculture system. Currently Eucheuma sp. cultivation area and Gracilaria sp. in Indonesia it is widely spread from Aceh to Papua, whereas the three most potential locations are West Papua with an area of 301,000 ha, followed by South Sulawesi 250,000 ha and Maluku 210,000 ha.

Currently, Indonesia is one of the top producing seaweed countries with a production capacity of 61.81% (328,000 tons) of the total world production in 2017. Indonesia’s main seaweed export destination is China with a total export of 149 thousand tons (85.5% of total exports). Indonesia is still a country with an average production of Eucheuma sp. 96.05% (7.72 million tons/year) followed by Zanzibar 1.56% (0.13 million tons/year) and the Philippines 1.39% (0.11 million tons). Meanwhile Gracilaria sp., Indonesia is the second-largest export country in the world with an average production of 28.45% (0.97 million tons/year), shadowing China with an average production of 69.19% (2.35 million tons/year) followed by the Philippines 0.35% (0.01 million tons) (FAO statistics in Ningsih T., – DJPDSPKP. 2018). In addition, the average global seaweed demand trend since 2015 – 2019 for fresh/cold/frozen/dried seaweed is 44.94% (USD 1.07 Billion). For the average trend of seaweed demand carrageenan is 44.31% (USD 1.06 Billion) and gelatin seaweed is 10.75% (USD 0.26 Billion). In 2019, Indonesia’s seaweed export volume was 324,850 tons with destination countries as in China and followed by the USA, Republic of Korea, Chile, Japan, UK, Netherlands, Spain, Vietnam, Philippines and others.

Seeing the huge potential of seaweed cultivation in Indonesia, great efforts are needed to optimize the potential of seaweed cultivation, such as maximizing the role of each stakeholder involved in improving seaweed competitiveness (Indonesian Government, Ministry, Business parties and Seaweed business and enterprise, Indonesian Seaweed Association, Indonesian Seaweed Industry Association, Research Institute, Educational Institution, and Indonesian Seaweed Commission and others).

One of CSG Bone's member shows the dried Gracilaria sp. seaweed/ ©WWF-Indonesia/Sulfianti
One of CSG Bone’s member shows the dried Gracilaria sp. seaweed/ ©WWF-Indonesia/Sulfianti

From the initial phases, Seafood Savers as a form of WWF-Indonesia initiative to bridge actor in the industry sector to understand and actualize sustainable fisheries and aquaculture in Indonesia has established a cooperation with the main actors and seaweed cultivation business of Gracilaria sp. & Eucheuma sp. in Indonesia, namely CV. Celebes Seaweed Group (CSG) in Bone Regency, South Sulawesi and local seaweed group located in Dewara and Lagundi on Wakatobi Islands, Southeast Sulawesi. Seafood Savers is responsible for providing appreciation, assistant, liaison, advocacy, and education to the company in actualizing sustainable aquaculture through the implementation of aquaculture improvement program (AIP). There are five standard principles of ASC-MSC Seaweed that are referenced in the implementation of AIP.

Principle One: Sustainability of Non-Cultivated Seaweed Population, where implementation is expected to maintain non-cultivated seaweed stocks, harvesting strategies that are responsive to the target state of stock status, and have no impact on the genetic structure of non-cultivated seaweed populations.

Principle Two: Environmental Impact. The implementation of the number two principles is expected that seaweed cultivation activities do not reduce the structure and function of seaweed habitat; does not interfere with the key elements of the structure and function of the seaweed ecosystem; has no impact on ETP species (rare, endangered and protected); availability of strategies for preventing the spread of pests and diseases, the efficiency of energy use; translocation is unlikely to cause diseases, pests, pathogens, and non-native species into the surrounding ecosystem; and prevent ecosystem impact attempt from the presence of foreign/new species.

Principle Three: Effective Management. The implementation of this principle is that seaweed cultivation activities do not violate the rule of law and/or local customs; a responsive decision-making process, using an approach of restraint, accountability and transparency; all information about decisions, production unit data supporting decisions, decision-making reasons, should be available to all stakeholders upon request; compliance and enforcement.

Principle Four: Social Responsibility. This principle is aimed at avoiding incidents/harassment and not hiring child and youth workers (under the age of 15 years old); no forced labor, bound labor and compulsory labor; no incidents and risks of discrimination; guaranteed health, safety and insurance of workers; fair and appropriate payroll; freedom of movement and collective bargaining; policies that ensure protection from violent acts of disciplinary practice; fair sharing of working hours; and environmental and social training.

Principle Five: Community relations and interactions. Implementation in this principle such as seaweed production units provides positive benefits to the community; dispute resolution by production units must meet the requirements of transparent national laws; indigenous rights/indigenous groups are respected by production units and there are efforts to accommodate their needs; production units comply with navigation regulations and allow access for users of other resources; and there are substantial equipment identification and recovery efforts, decommissioning of unused production or water-based structures.

A member of Gracilaria sp. seaweed business partner of CSG Bone stated that “ASC-MSC seaweed is very well implemented so that cultivation activities remain environmentally friendly and beneficial for the surrounding community, us farmers can also receive a fair price”. In order to optimize the implementation of AIP activities, solid coordination and good cooperation between stakeholders and parties involved, namely with the company, seaweed cultivation group, WWF-Indonesia (aquaculture team), Seafood Savers, government agencies (consist of the local authority: village, sub-district, district, marine and fisheries department, instructor, etc.), academic institution, indigenous stakeholders and all the communities around the site of the seaweed cultivation. Thus, the main actors and joint ventures of WWF-Indonesia are expected to be able to obtain the ecolabel certificate of Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) and become a pioneer for companies and other seaweed cultivation groups in Indonesia to implement a responsible and sustainable cultivation system.

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