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Chile encouraging small-scale brown algae farming

May 7, 2013, by Analia Murias

brown algae, or kelp

brown algae, or kelp

Aprogram intended to develop small-scale aquaculture of brown algae, or kelp, using hanging rope cultivation, is being launched in Chile’s Coquimbo region by the Fund for the Promotion of Scientific and Technological Development (Fondef) via the Catholic University of the North (UCN).

Dubbed “Towards a World Aquaculture” (HUAM) the program is intended to increase the profitability of these areas and improve organized artisanal fishermen’s quality of life. It is additionally intended to have a significant impact on the sustainability of the abalone industry, reducing the bottleneck restricting the growth of the industry and generating a sustainable food supply.

The 30-month project, beginning in June 2013, is led by Julio Vasquez Castro, a professor at the Department of Marine Biology, Faculty of Marine Sciences, and reflects the important challenges of Chile’s aquaculture. Castro says that the activity analysis “reveals that the Chilean aquaculture model is dominated by the maximization of the economic returns from investments, mostly from foreign capital, favoring highly productive farming systems, but with limited environmental sustainability.”

He says that, on the other hand, “Chile has a long coastal area with diverse and productive ecosystems, and a wide variety of native species with aquaculture potential to offer a unique opportunity to diversify aquaculture.”

Currently, 780 management areas along the coast of mainland Chile have 120,000 hectares under management with co-management plans for the exploitation of benthic invertebrates and commercially important kelp, according to the UCN. In the framework of the Fisheries and Aquaculture Act, the use of 20 per cent of the total area of the management area for the cultivation of endemic species is allowed, said Castro.

The UCN will also implement hanging rope for giant kelp (Macrocystis pyrifera) cultivation, using standard production techniques of sporophytes and hanging culture, and an innovative methodology for capturing spores and sporophytes from the natural environment.

This project is expected to make it possible for artisanal fishermen to manage the full cycle of the resource cultivation, significantly reducing production costs.

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