Arman Shah Ambo Dalli *
Sabah and Sarawak are two states in East Malaysia which have a great potential for seaweed culture. There are several seaweed species found growing naturally on reefs in Semporna area, south of Sabah and in Banggi Island of the South China Sea and in Kudat area, in north Sabah. The major seaweed species found are: Sargassum, Eucheuma, Caulerpa, Gracilaria, Hypnea, Padina and Hydroclathrus.
II. Eucheuma farming
Eucheuma culture was developed in Semporna area due to the great number of coastal inhabitants. It was started in May 1986 by the Fisheries Department personnel and four fishermen households. The aim of the Fisheries Department was to farm Eucheuma as a source of seed stock and to attract the fishermen to seaweed farming, in order to increase their income. No data was collected during this project.
III. Site selection and production
An estimated 1.5 hectares of suitable site was planted with Eucheuma striatum which consisted of 30,000 plants with an average weight of 250–300 grams per plant. The farmers were then able to plant 4 hectares on October 1987. Six families were involved in Eucheuma culture. The total number of fishermen involved in planting Eucheuma at present are ten (along with their families) who cover a total area of 10 hectares. This does not include the Fisheries Department Eucheuma farm.
The production of Eucheuma in 1987 amounted to 400 metric tons wet weight. Some were consumed as food and others were exported as dried material. The total Eucheuma production as reported does not include the wild stock harvested by the fishermen of which no record is available.
* Fishery Technician.
IV. Methods of culturing seaweeds
Two methods of farming were employed, namely:
The semi-raft method was applied only in lagoon areas where the depth of the water was between 10–20 ft. Pegged stakes were placed on opposite sides of the lagoon with floats tied to the monolines at a depth of 3 feet from water surface.
This method is also called stake and nylon-line method. It is cheaper compared to the other method for it is made up of two stakes and a monofilament nylon (No. 200 lbs) 15 meters long. The stakes are pegged one meter apart from each other and 15 meters across. A 15-meter nylon line can be seeded with 40–50 plants with a distance of 30 cm between plants.
V. Problems encountered
When the culture trials started, the following problems were encountered:
Fish predators that graze on the plants. One fish species was identified as Siganus sp.
Environmental factors such as salinity, light and temperature, water movement and water depth which affect the growth rate of the Eucheuma and other seaweed species.
Marketing. Since seaweed farming is still being developed in Malaysia, marketing of the product is still a major problem.
In the future more efforts in research on seaweed species should be carried out by the Fisheries Department.