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This Regional Study and Workshop on the Taxonomy, Ecology and Processing of Economically Important Red Seaweeds was supported by the Government of France Trust Fund with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and is one of three regional projects endorsed by IFREMER and implemented under GCP/INT/553/FRA. Nine countries from the region participated in the study, namely: Bangladesh; China; India; Indonesia; Malaysia; Myanmar; Philippines; Thailand and Vietnam. Iran and Sri Lanka prepared summary reports for the workshop, but did not participate fully in the study. Red seaweeds of the genera Porphyra, Gracilaria and Eucheuma are important cultured seaweeds in the region, but in view of the common interest and regional importance of the Gracilaria seaweed, it was recommended that the study focus on Gracilaria species.

This report presents the activities of the Final Workshop on the Taxonomy, Ecology and Processing of Commercially Important Red Seaweeds held at the Conference Room of the National Inland Fisheries Institute, Department of Fisheries, Kasetsart University Campus, Bangkok, Thailand from 24–27 January, 1995.

The objectives of the workshop were to:


National level follow up actions and priorities

Bangladesh: Follow-up action included a more extensive and thorough inventory and preparation of a prospectus of seaweed resources in the country. Bangladesh also proposed: (i) introducing appropriate Gracilaria species from Myanmar or India for culture in shrimp ponds; (ii) to study the extraction of phycocolloids from Hypnea and other important species found in Bangladesh; and (iii) to culture Hypnea in shrimp ponds as a means of improving water quality.

China: Follow-up studies aim to develop new genetic varieties of Gracilaria with fast growth and high agar quality. Tissue culture studies to improve spore collection techniques are also planned.

India: Improving the yield and agar quality of G. edulis will be a priority activity. Experimental culture in different areas will be conducted using different techniques to develop commercial-scale culture. Other seaweed species, such as Hypnea, will be studied for their potential for culture.

Indonesia: The present study will be expanded to formulate a sound basis for planning and establishing a national agar industry.

Iran: In line with the overall programme to develop Iranian aquaculture, seaweed resources will be surveyed to determine species for culture and identify suitable culture sites.

Malaysia: A complete seaweed laboratory to screen species with commercial potential and research on culture, post-harvest and quality improvement of products from phycocolloids will be established. Research will include control of epiphytes in Gracilaria culture ponds as well as control of predators in open water sites. Inventory studies of species, site selection and habitat suitability will be conducted. Information on population genetics, biotypes and ecotypes of tropical seaweeds are lacking and Malaysia plans to adopt molecular taxonomy for further confirmation of the identified species.

Myanmar: The follow-up programme will include confirmation of the identified Gracilaria species and research on processing techniques and purification of products. Better culture techniques to attain higher yields will be included in the fanning systems studies. Further training of the research and field personnel will also be needed.

Philippines: Immediate needs include training in processing, specifically on the chemistry of agarophytes for the purpose of developing new value-added products. Training and expert assistance is required. The follow-up programme to this regional project includes: (i) continuing the research on processing and agar extraction techniques suitable for each of the Gracilaria species identified as suitable for culture and maintaining standard qualities; (ii) introduction of village-level processing techniques; (iii) follow-up studies on taxonomy and ecology; (iv) further development of culture techniques; and (v) continuing studies on stock assessment of the seaweed resources of the country. The Philippines plans to establish a research and development centre for seaweeds to serve national needs and which could also become a regional resource for collaborative activities.

Sri Lanka: A national study on the taxonomy and ecology of commercially important seaweed species in Sri Lanka is planned. The programme will include biofiltration and phytosanitation and polyculture studies with other aquatic species. Training and advice on taxonomy and ecology are requested.

Thailand: The regional project has identified three species for further development, namely, G. fisheri, G. tenuistipitata and G. firma. The scope of the follow-up project will include more intensive ecological assessments of these species, stock assessment and management, development of culture techniques including polyculture, and development of other applications of the algae The proposed programme will require training as well as advice on ecological studies and stock assessment techniques; taxonomy, particularly molecular taxonomy; culture methods and farming systems. Co-operative research on biotechnology is planned.

Vietnam: The follow-up plan includes: a more intensive taxonomic and resource inventory of all seaweed species; development of culture techniques for the species that have been identified as having a good growth rate and high quality agar; and application of better processing techniques to produce higher quality standards of agar for the domestic and international markets. Vietnam requests assistance in establishing a centre for Gracilaria research and development to co-ordinate and conduct the national programme and to serve as the national focal point for regional collaborative research.

Regional co-operation

In the regional context, the analysis of needs showed that there were several common areas of interest, particularly in training (in taxonomy, culture and processing), but also in research and requests for certain technical assistance. The national studies have also shown that countries were at different stages in the development of research capacity and their Gracilaria industries. The analysis of capacities and needs also showed that there was good potential to use the existing centres within the region, such as exist in China, the Philippines and Thailand, to assist countries less well developed in their research capacity or seaweed industries, using the principle of Technical Co-operation among Developing Countries (TCDC). It was also recognised that expertise and appropriate technical assistance from countries and institutions outside of the region was still needed in some technologies and skills. The objective of such activities would be for countries to become self-reliant in the taxonomic, ecological, culture, and processing studies of Gracilaria and other economically important seaweeds. The workshop recognised the valuable regional co-ordinating role played by NACA and requested that NACA co-ordinate the regional seaweed programme. The further upgrading of expertise and manpower through appropriate training was considered a high priority. It was further requested that NACA co-ordinate the organisation of assistance to national training courses, through provision of suitable expertise and information.

The workshop recognised a number of important research priorities, which could be undertaken through a regional co-operative programme.

The workshop considered the need for improving post-harvest methods. The social and economic impact of Gracilaria culture to coastal communities could be improved considerably by: (i) development and promotion of methods for adding value to products through small-scale processing, which could be undertaken by farmers; and (ii) diversification of the products which could be processed from Gracilaria. The workshop concluded that small-scale demonstration plants could be developed, for the dissemination of technically feasible processing methods.

The workshop considered that information exchange should form an important part of the regional programme. There was a need for regular collation and dissemination of information on environmentally sound seaweed culture and processing methodologies, perhaps through a regular newsletter. Marketing and promotional efforts were also needed, whilst keeping in mind the potential market constraints. It was recommended that the UP Marine Science Institute database on seaweed, which has a very extensive collection of seaweed information, should be tapped for a regional seaweed information exchange under NACA's regional information programme.

The workshop discussed the preparation of a monograph on Gracilaria, based on the results of the regional study and other related information generated by the workshop. The monograph will describe the present status of knowledge on taxonomy, species descriptions, ecology, distribution and processing technology (especially agar yield and quality).


Following the discussions of the workshop participants, the following recommendations for follow up actions were adopted:

  1. In recognition of the potential contributions of Gracilaria culture, as well as that of other economic seaweeds, for social and economic uplifting of coastal communities and environmental improvement, the workshop recommended that national governments give priority to further strengthening programmes in each country to upgrade facilities for seaweed research and development and to promote the culture and processing of Gracilaria and other seaweeds. If not already established, each country should establish a research laboratory and culture and processing facilities to continue research and development on the processing and quality of their identified Gracilaria resources.

  2. In support of the national programmes, and in view of the benefits of a regional co-operative approach, the workshop recommended that a regional programme be developed by NACA. The workshop further recommended that NACA should ensure that the regional co-operative programme make efficient use of regional institutions and expertise.

  3. The workshop recommended that the regional programme on seaweed culture should give emphasis to training priorities, research, information exchange and technical assistance to upgrade national capacity:

  4. In implementing the programme, the participants recommended continued full utilisation of the two regional referral centres on taxonomy and processing. The programme should further expand to include other centres with expertise, such as SEAFDEC Aquaculture Department, UP Marine Science Institute, the Yellow Sea Fisheries Research Institute, and other regional centres.

  5. In support of the regional and national programmes, the workshop recommended that NACA seek the collaborative assistance of the French Government and other concerned agencies to meet the needs of the governments and private sector, as identified during the workshop. The participants further requested that the participants from France provide their support to the recommendations and to bring them to the attention of their respective agencies and government authorities. The workshop further recommended that NACA seek the collaborative assistance of FAO.

  6. The workshop further recommended NACA to give high priority to the use of TCDC mechanisms for support of the national programmes. It was strongly recommended that Cambodia, whose development efforts could be further assisted by the development of its seaweed resources, be included in the regional seaweed development programme.

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