Harvesting seaweed could become a major business opportunity for fisherman, according to the north’s development agency.
Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) has commissioned a study to examine opportunities for growth in the market in the waters around Scotland.
Seaweed is increasingly used in several products, including food and pharmaceuticals.
HIE believe there is an opportunity for it to become a much larger industry than it currently is in Scotland – and believe that abundant supply of brown kelp – or Laminaria – could be a particular area to exploit.
James Cameron, HIE’s head of life sciences, said: “Many small to medium enterprises are already using seaweed in products ranging from food to cosmetics to pharmaceuticals.
“We believe it could develop into a much bigger industry for Scotland, which has a large supply of seaweed around its coast line.
“This project will investigate if seaweed harvesting, the Laminaria genus in particular, may be a significant opportunity for fisherman in the sea fisheries sector to diversify as happens in other countries.”
The development agency has now advertised a contract for an extensive survey to study the feasibility of seaweed harvesting on an major school.
The feasibility of such an industry has never been looked at in Scotland before.
Therefore the costs associated with obtaining a licence to carry out the activity are relatively unknown and the licensing process completely untested.
The contractor appointed by HIE will be given responsibility for testing economic viability – and mapping out where the best areas to carry out harvests would be.
Mr Cameron added: “The project will involve mapping the seaweed abundance around the coastline and identify potential harvesting sites.
“It will also include extensive environmental assessment work and an investigation into the information needed to obtain a harvesting licence.
“The results of the project will be published and made available to any business looking to apply for a seaweed harvesting licence.”
The contract is worth between £130,000 to £160,000 and it is expected that the process will run from June this year for seven months.