Seaweed Production Systems (SPSs) in the Asia-Pacific Region and the SDG Agenda
Human activities and other environmental stressors are negatively impacting marine and coastal biodiversity and ecosystems. To improve the ocean’s health and encourage worldwide stakeholder engagement to support the sustainable development of the ocean, the United Nations (UN) declared a Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021–2030) on December 5, 2017. Oceans have a key role to play in meeting the world’s greatest challenges of feeding a population projected to rise to 9.7 billion by 2050. The seaweed production system (SPS) could be a solution to significantly contribute toward achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the 2030 Agenda, in particular SDG 14 and SDG 13. The SPS (also referred to as seaweed aquaculture) is one of the world’s fastest-growing supply chains for food, feed, and input for other products. In the aquaculture industry, specifically, SPS has demonstrated the potential to act as a solution both for climate change mitigation and adaptation. Based on the emerging climate concerns, in particular for coastal communities, seaweeds are positioned to support coastal ecosystem health and offer potential substantive benefits to coastal communities, including, but not limited to, food security, employment, and income generation opportunities. Edible seaweeds are rich in nutrients, proteins, lipids, and dietary fibers, and encompass bioactive molecules that can be utilized in pharmaceutical, nutraceutical, and cosmetic products. Seaweeds have higher photosynthetic efficiency, thus high carbon sequestration, than terrestrial plants. Therefore, SPSs are also widely discussed concerning climate mitigation and as a likely nature-based solution (NBS). Also noted are close interlinkages between SPS and SDG 14 targets to achieve healthy and productive oceans, specifically 14.2 which calls for sustainable management and protection of marine and coastal ecosystems and raises a “call of action” to avoid significant adverse impacts, and strengthening the resilience by shaping fitting actions and innovations for restoration. Among the 48 seaweed-producing countries/territories globally, 97.4% of the volume is produced by East Asian countries, primarily composed of cultured seaweeds compared to wild harvest. This synthesis showcases SPS trends in the Asia-Pacific region, while evaluating how these trends are likely to support the implementation of SDG 14 and other sustainability challenges related to the sector. By taking reference to specific case examples, the interlinkages between seaweed aquaculture, nature-based solutions (NBS), and SDGs are elucidated. This synthesis will also help to understand diverse perspectives on SPS at the regional level, collected using an online survey questionnaire. In addition, examined are major gaps and needs for SPS to become sustainable and guiding points supporting sustainability practices for SPS are listed based on 5 years of empirical research (multicountry SPS focused project: GlobalSeaweedSTAR).