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Maritime Forum

Map of the Week – Macroalgae and Microalgae Production Facilities

The Map of the Week shows the algae producing facilities in Europe by production methods. Algae are becoming increasingly popular in Europe for food, as a source material for use in pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, nutrition or energy (biofuel). Companies...


This week, Euronews released, within its Ocean episodes series, a documentary titled "Blue revolution": How farmed seaweed is good for us and the planet. It shows the growth of seaweed plantations in Europe and worldwide [1]. The video brings us close to the west coast of Sweden, in Grebbestad near Gothenburg, where tens of kilometres of ropes are suspended in the sea. For this seaweed farm, a new cultivation site operated by Gaëtan Zackrisson and his team, it’s planting season. They are installing more ropes covered with tiny young shoots of sea lettuce or ulva (of the genus Ulva) which is not generally grown on farms at sea. Every year, more and more farms of this type are appearing along the European coasts. But most of them produce kombu or other common seaweed varieties. Sea lettuce contains more protein and is less salty, which makes it tastier and easier to cook. Its culture remains an exception: the techniques for producing it on a large scale at sea have not yet been fully developed. This project supported by the European Union (EU) is deeply rooted in research. Nordic Seafarm is initially a spin-off from a university. And it's not just about seaweed. In Riga, a small Latvian company found an innovative way to produce spirulina — a tiny blue-green algae used around the world as a dietary supplement. Founded by two engineers and supported by the EU, "Spirulina Nord" sells algae as a superfood with clinically proven health benefits.

The European Commission’s Green Deal targets priority areas where the algae production sector can provide a relevant contribution. These are, for example, the goals of the EU to become climate neutral by 2050, to protect biodiversity[2], to develop a circular economy [3] and to contribute to the farm to fork strategy for sustainable food [4]. It is important to note that algae provide many essential ecosystem services. Algae contribute significantly to the global primary production while also playing an important role in the uptake of dissolved nutrients from the surrounding environment, to coastal defense from hazardous waves and potentially in carbon sequestration [5]. Macroalgae (or seaweeds) are also critical habitat-structuring species in coastal ecosystems [6].

Macroalgae production is still mainly dependent on harvesting from wild stocks (68% of the macroalgae producing units) but macroalgae aquaculture (land-based and at sea) is developing in several countries in Europe and currently represents 32% of the macroalgae production units. France, Ireland, and Spain are the top 3 countries in number of macroalgae production units while Germany, Spain, and Italy rank highest for microalgae. Algae production in Europe remains limited by a series of technological, regulatory and market-related barriers. Having said that, the European algae sector has considerable potential for sustainable development as long as the acknowledged economic, social and environmental challenges are addressed. [1] Explore the Map of the Week to learn more about the algae production facilities across Europe.

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The data in this map are provided by EMODnet.