Seaweed FisheryThe main components of this fishery are the collection of cast bull kelp and harvesting of the introduced seaweed, Undaria. In addition, there are several minor components, including a single operation harvesting red and brown seaweeds and several small operations collecting cast seaweed from specific beaches around the State.
The collection of cast bull kelp occurs in two general areas, King Island and the northern sections of the West Coast. The operation on King Island, undertaken by Kelp Industries Pty Ltd, has been underway since the early 1970s with, in recent years, an average annual harvest of above 3000 tonnes (dried weight).
About 80 to 100 individuals on King Island collect the cast bull kelp and transport it to the Kelp Industries plant in Currie. Kelp harvesting generates about $2 million worth of income for King Island.
The end product of dried bull kelp is the extraction of alginates, which are used in thickening solutions in a wide variety of products, including sauces, syrups, creams, lotions and ice cream. The cast bull kelp industry on King Island supplies about 5% of the world production of alginates.
Kelp harvesting also occurs on the West Coast of Tasmania where there are two centres of operation: around Bluff Hill Point and at Granville Harbour. The cast bull kelp is used in commercial gardens and pastures and on private gardens.
Undaria is a brown algae from Japan, possibly introduced by ballast water. The main area of investigation is the East Coast area around the port of Triabunna (a woodchip loading port). Undaria was first identified in 1988 and in the early 1990s had become sufficiently established to enable the development of a commercial scale harvest.
The harvest operations currently occur on the East Coast of Tasmania, as that is where significant concentration of Undaria occurs. It is currently found from the D’Entrecasteaux Channel to north of St Helens.
Since Undaria is an introduced marine pest, the harvesting of this species does not need to be constrained by concerns over resource sustainability. It was initially hoped that the harvest would help slow the spread of the pest, although levels of harvesting have not been sufficient to achieve this.
The third part of the fishery is the localised collection of cast seaweeds and seagrasses. There are several locations around Tasmanian where large volumes of seaweed and seagrass are washed ashore. At some of the locations, licensed operators are able to collect the cast weed. The bulk of the cast weed is bagged and sold in garden shops as garden mulch. These are usually are small-scale operations working a few beaches.
Finally, there is currently no direct harvesting of native seaweeds. The Department does not encourage such harvesting due to the importance of seaweeds to Tasmania’s marine ecosystems upon which Tasmania’s marine fisheries are based.
See also: Undaria Action Plan or Kelpwatch.
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