Research project launched over row on commercial kelp dredging

Kelp forest. Credit: Getty Images/jfybel

Academics at Aberdeen University, Scotland, and from Japan are joining forces after a row erupted over an application by a private company to collect 30,000 tonnes of seaweed off the coast of Scotland.

The research will look at the role ecology and politics play in coastal societies. It will be funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). The ESRC is an offshoot established following a review, announced by the Scottish Government in late 2018, into the regulations around the harvesting of kelp in Scottish waters.

Professor David Anderson, who is the project lead, said: “We aim to build a network to examine the social and political context surrounding the harvesting of seaweed, with special attention to traditional rights and methods of building a blue economy, which encourages better stewardship of our ocean resources.”

The commercialisation of seaweed collection and harvesting is a controversial topic off the west coast, as it has brought to a head the potential conflict between the shipping communities and industry.

By contrast, seaweed has been an important part of the economy for centuries in Japan, with industry working with local communities.