Global Production Overview

Commercial farming of seaweed began in Asia more than 50 years ago. It has since grown rapidly and seaweed farms are starting to become popular in other parts of the world. Yet, the bulk of seaweed production still takes place in East and Southeast Asian countries, of which China, Indonesia, the Philippines, North and South Korea, Japan and Malaysia contribute a staggering ~98% of farmed seaweed production, globally.

Countries outside of Asia produced less than 2% of the total farmed seaweed volumes in 2020. Nevertheless, the outlook for scaling seaweed production in other parts of the world is promising.

Zanzibar (Tanzania) and Chile are the next two geographies that follow the Asian lead and account for 0.3% and 0.1% of the world’s seaweed aquaculture production respectively.

With  joint efforts from public and private sector, Europe, the USA and Australia/New Zealand have strong commitments to develop their seaweed industries and show early traction from some pioneering farms. Similarly, Africa and Latin America have high potential to leverage their long coastlines and become the next seaweed geographies.

The production data presented here is based on the FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture database that provides the only account of global production figures of seaweed today.  Their data is based on the official production figures provided by national marine agencies.

However, since only a few agencies are comprehensively quantifying seaweed production in their country, these volumes do not always reflect the real supply.

The table on the right provides a high level summary that reflects where the official volumes divert from the real supply of these countries and species.

Global Production by Seaweed Species

Although more than 12,000 species of seaweeds have been described to date, a tiny fraction –  0.1 % of these species – are commercially farmed today.

The evidence: The FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture database lists 47 algae species produced by aquaculture:
– 10 of these listed species are microalgae and therefore not included in this report.
– 15 of the remaining macroalgae species had no production in 2020.
10 macroalgae species had a production that is below a commercially relevant scale (<1.000 tonnes wet weight) in 2020.

Therefore, only about 12 macroalgae (seaweed) species are currently commercially farmed and accounted for more than 95% of the global seaweed production by both volume and value in 2020.

Some of these species are regional, have distinct names, or are farmed interchangeably, but are actually traded as one commodity and have the same supply chain set-up.
The main commercially farmed species can be summarised into five main seaweed species groups:

Eucheuma seaweeds nei, Spiny Eucheuma, 
Elkhorn sea moss
Laminaria japonica, Saccharina latissima, Laminaria digitata
Undaria pinnatifida

Pyropia yezoensis, Porphyra spp.,
Porphyra columbina 
Gracilaria gracilis, Gracilaria verrucosa, Gracilaria spp.

Although the main commercial seaweeds have been around for almost half a century, they still show an incredibly high growth rate in terms of production volumes over the past decade. Gracilaria has been growing the strongest, with over a 200% increase in production volumes since 2010.

Select one of the species below to explore global production by species: