Seaweed farming project yet to take off

Studies raise doubts regarding feasibility of the industry along Kerala coast

A pilot project on seaweed farming, mooted by the Fisheries Department, is yet to take off on account of constraints imposed by the dynamics of the coastal waters off Kerala and questions regarding its feasibility.

Seaweed farming was in the discussion recently when Modadugu Vijay Gupta, fisheries scientist and winner of the 2005 World Food prize, urged Kerala to explore this industry at the just-concluded Kerala Looks Ahead conclave, organised by the State Planning Board.

Though the Fisheries Department submitted a ₹20 lakh pilot project to the State government last year, studies undertaken for preparing a detailed DPR raised certain doubts regarding the feasibility of this industry along the Kerala coast, Director of Fisheries C.A. Latha said.

The pilot project involved establishing 250 units in the nine coastal districts at a cost of ₹8,000 per unit. The department had also formed a panel for conducting the feasibility study headed by the Fisheries Director that included representatives of the Fisheries Department, Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI), Kerala State Coastal Area Development Corporation (KSCADC), and the Agency for Development of Aquaculture Kerala (ADAK).

“ADAK expressed some concerns regarding the scope of the project. We have deeper waters along the Kerala coast when compared to places suited for seaweed farming like Mandapam in Tamil Nadu. We lack protected bays, and the coast here experience rough sea conditions through the year. Some pockets along the Kerala coast may be suitable. We are looking into what the constraints are and then trying to move forward,” the Fisheries Director said. Equally importantly, the economic and social impact of the industry on the coastal communities also needed to be taken into account, she said.

Dr. Vijay Gupta, while speaking on the theme of new challenges and opportunities in fisheries, had wanted the State to explore the potential of this multi-billion dollar global industry.

The Central government too was encouraging coastal states to take up seaweed farming. The Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana (PMMSY) places thrust on it as a means of job creation. In the 2021-22 budget, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had announced a Multipurpose Seaweed Park in Tamil Nadu calling seaweed farming “an emerging sector with potential to transform the lives of coastal communities”.

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