Sep 30, 2019

Regional e-Notes: September Letter from the Director


I was pleased to see that the recent ‘Marine Biotechnology Conference 2019’ in Shizuoka City, Japan featured a session on “Algal Biotechnology.” During this session, presenters revealed how algae has the potential to significantly benefit all living creatures on earth. To start, algae helps the ocean trap more than 90% of carbon dioxide released from human activities on earth. It can also be a source of protein as well as other unique substances to fight again diseases and meet other nutritional needs. Macroalgae—including seaweed commonly found in the grocery store—is high in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, as well as essential amino acids. It is also considered the best dietary source of iodine, which is important for thyroid health.

In addition to it’s growing popularity as a nutrient-dense source of food, macroalgae is a powerhouse plant when it comes to environmental remediation and mitigation. There is a growing body of research demonstrating that macroalgae can be cultivated to significantly lessen the impacts of climate change. Several studies have found that fast-growing kelp and other macroalgae species are highly efficient at storing carbon. According to a recently published paper in the journal Current Biology, “raising macroalgae in just 0.001 percent of seaweed-growing waters worldwide and then burying it at sea could offset the entire carbon emissions of the rapidly growing global aquaculture industry.” Furthermore, kelp added to livestock feeds is proven to reduce methane emissions from cattle production.

CTSA is currently funding work aimed at cultivating three species of Hawaiian macroalgae, and I am looking forward to the contributions this project will make. As we have been reminded in recent weeks through the Global Climate Strike and the United Nations Climate Summit, our planet is experiencing and facing significant changes as a result of our rapidly changing climate. We need all of the solutions that we can get. As always, I welcome your comments and suggestions.

On a separate note, as some of you may already know, NIFA has moved to Kansas City as of today. With this move, the aquaculture community will miss working with Drs. Gene Kim and Max Mayeaux as our aquaculture leaders at NIFA. While we hope they will continue to support aquaculture in their new capacities, we also look forward to working with the soon-to-be appointed NIFA aquaculture team. This issue features a message from the USDA with new contact information and the reassurance that aquaculture will remain an important part of its portfolio.

Cheng-Sheng Lee, Ph.D.
Executive Director, CTSA