Socio-Economic Study of Seaweed Harvesting in Ireland

The Clean Technology Centre has been commissioned by the Marine Institute on a Socio-Economic Study of Seaweed Harvesting in Ireland. The aim of the project is to provide baseline socioeconomic information about seaweed harvesting activity and product usage in Ireland today.

This 12-month project was contracted by the Marine Institute, the national agency responsible for marine research, technology development and innovation. It is being led by Munster Technological University (including the Clean Technology Centre in Cork and the Circular Bioeconomy Research Group in Tralee) with support from Benton Ecological Solutions & Technology.

While the harvesting of wild seaweed by hand is an integral part of many rural marine communities in Ireland, there is an increasing demand for seaweed as a raw material in production of organic soil amendments, animal feed formulations, human nutritional supplements, beauty products, biochemical applications and pharmaceuticals. The potential economic value of this resource, when sustainably managed, has huge potential for growth and can make a substantial contribution to coastal communities. The challenge is to ensure the co-existence of traditional seaweed harvesting while also embracing the opportunities which are now presenting themselves within this sector.

This study will provide important background information for Ireland’s National Marine Planning Framework (NMPF) and will inform the development of national policy for the sector. The draft NMPF states that continued growth in an industry that provides high value employment and a positive economic contribution to coastal communities in rural Ireland must be balanced against the need to ensure that the level of seaweed harvesting is sustainable and is capable of ensuring the continuing replenishment and availability of this natural resource.

This project aims to improve information on the current and future spatial distribution of harvesting; the intensity of harvesting and resource usage; improve the knowledge on the socioeconomic value of seaweed harvesting activities; and provide a better understanding of the potential value of seaweed harvesting. All the project findings will be synthesised into a final report which will be presented at a sectoral knowledge transfer event.

The Marine Institute seeks to assess and realise the economic potential of Ireland’s 220 million acre marine resource; promote the sustainable development of our marine resources through strategic funding programmes and essential scientific services; and safeguard our marine environment through research and environmental monitoring. The Marine Institute provides technical and scientific support to the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage to develop Ireland NMPF and implement Directive 2014/89/EU – Establishing a Framework for Marine Spatial Planning.

This project is financed by the Irish Government and the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) 2014-2020, Blue Growth & Marine Spatial Planning Scheme, administered through the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine.

Key details

Project Name

Socio-Economic Study of Seaweed Harvesting in Ireland


Marine Institute





Main features

A Socio-Economic Study of Seaweed Harvesting in Ireland

Contact Details

Colum Gibson
Centre Manager
Colum is the Clean Technology Centre manager, a Senior Environmental Consultant and programme manager with a PhD in Physical Chemistry. He is an IEMA Auditor and has worked with CTC for almost 20 years. Colum has extensive experience working with industry, the waste sector, local authorities, communities and national agencies. He has worked on a broad range of topics, including energy efficiency, environmental indicators, waste management and prevention, water and energy assessments, zero emissions and waste, environmental management systems, creative thinking, innovation and sustainable community development.