The most important aspect in developing a productive seaweed farm is the site selection. Farmers look for good water motion that replenishes nutrients, keeps the seaweed clean and prevents extreme fluctuations in temperature, salinity, pH and dissolved gases. The farm shouldn’t be too exposed to strong winds, waves and currents either. The exposure, location, water depth and substrate beneath the farm will determine the farm design and its cultivation method.
Explore Site Selection by Species
The coastline of the coral triangle countries is enormous and diverse. There is plenty of variety in seaweed farm locations and characteristics.
Ideally farmers have more than one farm site, so they can rotate their crops to sites with the best exposure at different times of the year. Seasons and weather will influence the growth of the seaweed significantly, due to temperature and salinity fluctuations. Hence, in the coral triangle regions, the wet season is usually worse for farming seaweed.
Slow water motion is generally not good for growing seaweed, so farmers tend to find locations with moderate water exchange. This ensures a better nutrient availability and helps to remove the sediments that tend to settle on the plants. High level of water turnover also prevents extreme fluctuation in temperature, salinity and other water parameters.
Eucheumatoids are warm water species and thrive in 27-30°C water. In nature, they are found below the low tide mark towards the upper subtidal zone of the reef, and grow over sand, coral or rock substrate, where water movement is moderate.
Different substrates beneath the farms indicate how seaweed aquaculture interacts with the environment.
The small scale farm holders in these countries almost never measure the size of their farm by hectare. The amount and length of cultivation rope is a common metric instead.
A licence, concession or permit to farm is not always required for small-scale farmers in South East Asia. It highly depends on the regulations at national, regional and community level.
In the Philippines, farmers usually obtain a licence from the local government (Municipality or Barangay) and also pay an annual fee per household for their site.
In Malaysia, there are a few institutions that are involved in giving approval for use of the sea area such as the Department of Fisheries or the Farmer Organisation Authority. While only Malaysian passport holders can obtain a licence from these agencies, the many “stateless” communities, living out in the seaweed farming areas on stilt houses, are often the ones doing the actual farming on behalf of them.
In Indonesia, smallholder farmers don’t require a permit. Access to sea areas is gained by way of traditional ownership and structures within the community, or in other words, site selection happens on a first come first served basis. Usually people from outside the village/city need to ask the community head for permission to farm and get a site assigned. Companies on the other hand will need a concession to farm and pay an annual fee for their site to the Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fishery (MOMAF).