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Seaweed Futures


Cornish Seaweed Futures was a collaborative interdisciplinary project led by researchers at the University of Exeter’s Environment and Sustainability Institute in Penryn, Cornwall. The project ran from October 2019 for 12 months. It was funded under the EMFF/ENG3418 grant agreement.

The aim of this project was to identify the potential social impacts of seaweed farming, at a variety of scales, on marine stakeholders in Cornwall, and explore social attitudes towards this prospective industry.

It is likely that seaweed farming will become an established and more prevalent economic activity in the UK. Whilst there is evidence on the ecological and environmental impacts of seaweed farming there is a gap in the policy and academic literatures regarding the assessment of the social costs and benefits of seaweed farming for different maritime stakeholders and coastal communities.

Different “seaweed futures” were created with conceptual input from industry stakeholders including representatives from Cornish Seaweed Company and West Country Mussels. The project team and its collaborators created a set of plausible seaweed farming scenarios to be used as prompts for discussion with a variety of marine stakeholders in Cornwall, focusing on the potential social impacts of seaweed farming.

The project team included researchers from the departments of Human Geography (Dr Tomas Chaigneau, Dr Katie Orchel), Marine Engineering (Dr Ian Ashton), and Marine Biology (Dr Carly Daniels), in collaboration with Cornwall based illustrator Tom Hubmann.



This methodology was able to explore some of the potential hidden or unintended social impacts that seaweed aquaculture may have on a variety on different stakeholders. Specifically, it enabled a discussion on where conflicts might arise between seaweed farming and existing marine stakeholders, identified areas where seaweed farming could combine well with existing marine industry and uncover where trade-offs might arise where seaweed farming benefits certain aspects or form certain people at the cost of others. It provided a safe space for individuals to make themselves heard, voice concerns and enter the discussion.