Project Seahorse PhD student James Hehre is studying the impact of seaweed farming on coral ecosystems in the Philippines. In his own words:
"I want to know whether seaweed farming creates new habitat for fish, and can therefore help the environment, or whether it damages the environment by killing corals.
"Seaweed farming is a major global industry that is growing incredibly fast. Yet most people are unaware that seaweed is even farmed at all. Seaweed is used in too many consumer products to count: everything from food and diet soda, to make-up and toothpaste, to industrial lubricants and medicine. The list goes on and on.
"Seaweed farming a big deal in the Philippines, where my project is based. The shallow coral reefs that surround the hundreds of islands in the Central Visayas are ideal for growing just the right type of seaweed for export, which is why this region is one of the biggest producers on the world.
"As fish and other sealife have begun to disappear, thanks to overfishing and pollution, more and more families rely on seaweed farms to earn a living. The problem is that nobody really knows what all of this farming will do to the reef ecosystems. Over the next few years that’s exactly what I’m going to try to figure out."
You can read about James's latest adventures on the Project Seahorse blog:
Cheapskate (18 August 2011)
Language Lessons (29 July 2011)
A Fresh Start in the Philippines (6 July 2011)
Photo: Seaweed farms viewed from above the water, Danajon Bank, Philippines. James Hehre/Project Seahorse