Scientific paper - Socioeconomic prospects of a seaweed bioeconomy in Sweden

red pink seaweed in the sea

Seaweed cultivation is a large industry worldwide, but production in Europe is small compared to production in Asian countries.

In the EU, the motivations for seaweed farming may be seen from two perspectives; one being economic growth through biomass production and the other being the provisioning of ecosystem services such as mitigating eutrophication. In this paper, we assess the economic potential of large-scale cultivation of kelp, Saccharina latissima, along the Swedish west coast, including the value of externalities. The findings suggest that seaweed farming has the potential of becoming a profitable industry in Sweden. Furthermore, large-scale seaweed farming can sequester a significant share of annual anthropogenic nitrogen and phosphorus inflows to the basins of the Swedish west coast (8% of N and 60% of P). Concerning the valuation of externalities, positive values generated from sequestration of nitrogen and phosphorus are potentially counteracted by negative values from interference with recreational values. Despite the large N and P uptake, the socioeconomic value of this sequestration is only a minor share of the potential financial value from biomass production. This suggests that e.g. payment schemes for nutrient uptake based on the socioeconomic values generated is not likely to be a tipping point for the industry. Additionally, seaweed cultivation is not a cost-efficient measure in itself to remove nutrients. Policy should thus be oriented towards industry development, as the market potential of the biomass will be the driver that may unlock these bioremediation opportunities.

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Authors: Linus Hasselström, Jean-Baptiste Thomas, Jonas Nordström, Gunnar Cervin, Göran M. Nylund, Henrik Pavia & Fredrik Gröndahl

Status 05.05.2020.

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