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A `fortune' in seaweed waiting to be tapped

By Our Staff Reporter

RAMANATHAPURAM, FEB. 18 . Many of the coastal districts of Tamil Nadu are considered backward because they are drought-prone. But they have untapped seaweed wealth of Rs. 2,000 crores.

According to data available with the Aquaculture Foundation of India (AFI), the shallow waters of the Gulf of Mannar and the Pak Strait have the potential of producing one million tonnes of seaweed, worth Rs.2, 000 crores.

This could provide livelihood to one lakh fisherfolk in 10 districts, including Ramanathapuram, Tuticorin, Kanyakumari, Pudukottai and Nagapattinam.

About 271 genera and 1,153 species of marine algae, belonging to the groups — Cholorophyceae, Rhodophyceae, Phaeophyceae and Cyanophyceae — have been recorded so far. A total of 122 algal species have been recorded in Tamil Nadu.

The seaweed in the inter-tidal and shallow waters of all maritime States and Lakshadweep have been estimated to have 91,339 tonnes of wet weight. Of this, 75,373 tonnes of seaweed are estimated to be in the Tamil Nadu coast alone, on an area of 1863 sq km, from Rameswaram to Kanyakumari.

Areas such as Rameswaram, Pampan, Mandapam, Vedalai, Kilakarai, Ervadi, Kanyakumari, Seeniappa Dharga, Periapattinam, Valinokkam, Pattanamarudur and Sethubavachatram are important seaweed landing centres. Kudankulam is found to be rich with species of seaweed.

M. Sakthivel, president, Aquaculture Foundation of India, said seaweed was a valuable source of raw material in health food, medicine, pharmaceutical products, textiles, fertilizer and animal feed.

S. Ramasubramanian, eco development officer, Gulf of Mannar Biosphere Reserve Trust, said floating seaweed could provide shelter for a large number of marine organisms and could enrich biodiversity. Seaweed farming "is a 100 percent environment-friendly," he said.

Scientists of the Aquaculture Foundation of India, the Central Salt and Marine Chemicals Research Institute (CSMCRI), the Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI), and M.S. Swaminathan of the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation will meet at Mandapam on Monday and Tuesday to discuss how to spread seaweed cultivation.

G. Gopakumar, principal scientist, CMFRI, Mandapam, said they would discuss the importance of seaweed cultivation, creating awareness among locals of the potential of seaweed farming and environmental and biodiversity issues.

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