General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean - GFCM

An underwater ally for food security and healthy ecosystems



Oceans cover more than 70 percent of the Earth’s surface, yet they only contribute to 2 percent of the world’s food. Seaweed could contribute to a systemic change in our model of civilization but its potential remains majorly untapped.

Seaweed could well become a precious ally to meet the global challenges, from hunger to climate change. Its uses range from a nutritious source of food for human consumption, to animal feed, fuel, fertiliser, a substitute for plastics and even medicine. Importantly, seaweed can also play a role in carbon sequestration and eutrophication mitigation, and it is increasingly being used as a “nature-based solution” to mitigate climate change and support ecosystems.

“Seaweed may well be the greatest untapped resource on the planet” says Vincent Doumeizel, Senior Advisor to the United Nations Global Compact and promoter of the Safe Seaweed Coalition. “This nascent industry is currently highly disconnected and lacking global safety standards to scale up. By working together, we can leverage seaweed production to address some of the most pressing global challenges.”


Did you know?

Seaweed can add up to 10 percent to the world’s present supply of food using just 0.03 percent of the oceans’ surface.

By 2050, seaweed production could absorb 135 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year and 30 percent of all the nitrogen entering the oceans from land-based pollution.

Adding only 2 percent of specific seaweed species to the diet of cattle can reduce methane emissions from cattle production by 99 percent.

While seaweed is the world’s fastest growing food production sector, in the Mediterranean it is still at a very early stage. In 2015, Morocco was among the first countries in the region to invest in seaweed farming. A cooperative of artisanal fishers wished to diversify their income and find new sources of growth for their activity. Their cumulative production to date amounts to more than 600 tonnes of Gracilaria gracilis, a red algae that is transformed into agar-agar, a product of significant commercial importance at the international level.

Another example of the business potential of seaweed farming can be found in Tunisia, where a farm in the Bizerte lagoon has expanded in Mozambique and Zanzibar to export more than 100 algae products in 17 countries, while offering employment to local societies and providing livelihoods for coastal communities. The majority of those currently employed by the seaweed industry across Africa and Asia are women.

Bizerte Lagoon, algae harvesting and drying ©GFCM/Houssam Hamzah

This year, the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM) of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has started mapping all seaweed stakeholders in order to bring them together to exchange knowledge, develop best practices and promote seaweed farming in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea.

“The promotion of seaweed farming in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea is a key goal for the GFCM, in its efforts to transform the aquaculture industry through innovative and nature-based solutions”, declared Houssam Hamza, GFCM Aquaculture Officer. “By working with all stakeholders, we can develop a resilient and sustainable sector that provides food security and livelihoods in our region.” 

Learn more about the launch of the first global seaweed coalition.

Learn more about the activities of the GFCM on seaweed in Tunisia.