The Caribbean’s small countries and island nations are experiencing a loss of resources due to climate change, nutrient pollution, ocean acidification, seagrass bed habitat loss, fishing pressure, and lost tourism revenues due to COVID-19. We believe that well-managed development and growth of tropical seaweed aquaculture in the region may help to assuage these issues while also providing a new source of seaweed biomass for the existing carrageenan, new food and textile, and possibly future biofuel markets. We are exploring the opportunities for expanded seaweed aquaculture in the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico in collaboration with partners across 15 institutions and research sites in Puerto Rico, Florida, and Belize. Together we are prototyping cultivation systems that will allow farms to be deployed in offshore areas, creating tools to mechanize seeding and harvesting processes, assessing the environmental impacts of these farm systems, characterizing the growth and composition of tropical algae in near and offshore environments, and conducting economic and life cycle analyses of macroalgal aquaculture systems in this region. Findings from these efforts will be tailored to the conditions in the Caribbean and The Gulf of Mexico and be adaptable for other locations with similar environmental threats or needs for alternative marine livelihoods.
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