Seaweed cultivation is the fastest-growing aquaculture sector, with a demonstrated potential to drive development in some of the poorest coastal populations worldwide. However, in comparison to terrestrial crops, our understanding how to control, use and manage genetic resources from seaweeds is much more limited. In addition, along with the growth and intensification of seaweed cultivation, new diseases are increasingly being reported, but knowledge of their causative agents is limited.
Two of the crops with the highest global production are the tropical red algal eucheumatoids, Kappaphycus spp. and Eucheuma denticulatum, which are largely cultivated for their high content of kappa and iota carrageenan, respectively. In this talk, I will introduce the international research initiative GlobalSeaweedSTAR (www.globalseaweed.org) that investigates the above raised issues in the red algal carrageenophyte industry (Eucheuma spp. and Kappaphycus spp.). Through an international consortium, we are collecting cultivated and non-cultivated eucheumatoids from seaweed farms and natural habitats on a global scale, with emphasis on the centres of eucheumatoid production in South East Asia and the Western Indian Ocean. I will outline our steps to identify key pests and pathogens in seaweed cultivation and to assess intra- and inter-specific diversity of eucheumatoids and our efforts to interact with stakeholders. Finally, I will end the talk with a brief view on European seaweed aquaculture and efforts to biobank seaweed species of relevance for the European seaweed sector.