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Botanica Marina

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Volume 62, Issue 5


Ecosystem-based management of seaweed harvesting

Heike K. LotzeORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-6258-1304 / Inka Milewski
  • Department of Biology, Dalhousie University, 1355 Oxford Street, PO BOX 15000, Halifax, NS, B3H 4R2, Canada
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/ Julia Fast
  • Department of Biology, Dalhousie University, 1355 Oxford Street, PO BOX 15000, Halifax, NS, B3H 4R2, Canada
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/ Lauren Kay
  • Department of Biology, Dalhousie University, 1355 Oxford Street, PO BOX 15000, Halifax, NS, B3H 4R2, Canada
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/ Boris Worm
  • Department of Biology, Dalhousie University, 1355 Oxford Street, PO BOX 15000, Halifax, NS, B3H 4R2, Canada
  • Other articles by this author:
  • De Gruyter OnlineGoogle Scholar
Published Online: 2019-08-23 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/bot-2019-0027


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.

This article offers supplementary material which is provided at the end of the article.

Keywords: canopy structure; community composition; ecosystem effects; functions and services; habitat impacts


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Heike K. Lotze

Heike K. Lotze is a Professor of Marine Ecology at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada and Canada Research Chair in Marine Renewable Resource (2006–2016). Ever since her first research project on seaweeds, Heike’s research has focused on human-induced changes in marine populations, communities and ecosystems, and how we can improve management and conservation to sustain the structure and functions of marine ecosystems and the services they provide for human well-being.

Inka Milewski

Inka Milewski is a Research Associate at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada and has been a Science Advisor for several non-governmental organizations in Canada for over 20 years. Her research is focused on quantifying the effects of pollution, nutrient loading, habitat alteration, fisheries, and aquaculture on marine ecosystems with a goal to inform policy and the public on resource management and conservation issues.

Julia Fast

Julia Fast is currently completing her Bachelor of Science with a double major in Biology and Environmental Science at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, Canada. Julia is broadly interested in the effects of humans on marine ecosystems and species, and has been a Research Assistant in Heike Lotze’s lab working on the management of seaweed harvesting around the world and the impacts of nutrient loading on coastal ecosystems.

Lauren Kay

Lauren Kay graduated with a MSc in Marine Biology from Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada in 2015. Both her undergraduate and graduate research projects focused on rockweed habitats along the Canadian shoreline, including the effects of nutrient loading, harvesting and climate change on rockweed growth and survival as well as canopy and community structure. She currently lives in Montreal and is studying Medicine at McGill University.

Boris Worm

Boris Worm is a Killam Research Professor of Marine Conservation Biology at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada. His work focuses on documenting and understanding changes in marine biodiversity, as well as finding science-based solutions for marine conservation and management at regional and global scales.

Received: 2019-04-29

Accepted: 2019-07-30

Published Online: 2019-08-23

Published in Print: 2019-09-25

Funding Source: Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada

Award identifier / Grant number: RGPIN-2014-04491

Award identifier / Grant number: RGPIN-2017-05118

Financial support was provided by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC, Funder Id: http://dx.doi.org/10.13039/501100000038, Grant Numbers: RGPIN-2014-04491 and RGPIN-2017-05118) with grants to HKL and BW.

Citation Information: Botanica Marina, Volume 62, Issue 5, Pages 395–409, ISSN (Online) 1437-4323, ISSN (Print) 0006-8055, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/bot-2019-0027.

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