Accessible Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter August 23, 2019

Ecosystem-based management of seaweed harvesting

Heike K. Lotze ORCID logo, Inka Milewski, Julia Fast, Lauren Kay and Boris Worm
From the journal Botanica Marina


Harvesting wild seaweeds has a long history and is still relevant today, even though aquaculture now supplies >96% of global seaweed production. Current wild harvests mostly target canopy-forming kelp, rockweed and red macroalgae that provide important ecosystem roles, including primary production, carbon storage, nutrient cycling, habitat provision, biodiversity and fisheries support. Harvest methods range from selective hand-cutting to bottom trawling. Resulting ecosystem impacts depend on extraction method and scale, ranging from changes in primary production to habitat disruption, fragmentation, food-web alterations and bycatch of non-target species. Current management often aims for sustainable harvesting in a single-species context, although some agencies acknowledge the wider ecosystem structure, functions and services seaweeds provide. We outline potential ecosystem-based management approaches that would help sustain productive and diverse seaweed-based ecosystems. These include maintaining high canopy biomass, recovery potential, habitat structure and connectivity, limiting bycatch and discards, while incorporating seasonal closures and harvest-exclusion zones into spatial management plans. Other sustainability considerations concern monitoring, enforcement and certification standards, a shift to aquaculture, and addressing cumulative human impacts, invasive species and climate change. Our review provides a concise overview on how to define and operationalize ecosystem-based management of seaweed harvesting that can inform ongoing management and conservation efforts.

Funding source: Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada

Award Identifier / Grant number: RGPIN-2014-04491

Award Identifier / Grant number: RGPIN-2017-05118

Funding statement: Financial support was provided by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC, Funder Id:, Grant Numbers: RGPIN-2014-04491 and RGPIN-2017-05118) with grants to HKL and BW.


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Article note

This article is part of the special issue series of Botanica Marina: Seaweed resources of the world: a 2020 vision, which has started publication in Botanica Marina 2019, vol. 62, issue 3. The series is guest-edited by Alan T. Critchley, Anicia Hurtado, Leonel Pereira, Melania Cornish, Danilo Largo and Nicholas Paul.

Received: 2019-04-29
Accepted: 2019-07-30
Published Online: 2019-08-23
Published in Print: 2019-09-25

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