Recently, TIDE’s Managed Access Officer Albert Jacobs and Marine Biologist Tanya Barona, with a group of 4 Port Honduras Marine Reserve managed access fishers (Genevieve Ramirez, Anna Ramirez-Mutrie, Renalda Ramirez, and Elmar Saldivar), learned how to farm seaweed. Taught by the Placencia Producer’s Cooperative Society, who is leading seaweed farming efforts in Belize, these Punta Gorda fishers will teach other managed access fishers these techniques so that seaweed farming can get underway in the Port Honduras Marine Reserve. Creating alternatives to overfishing is important for this reserve of diverse habitats that protects numerous species threatened with extinction in other areas of the world, including the goliath grouper, West Indian manatee, hawksbill turtle and others.
Seaweed has been farmed by the Placencia Coop since 2009. It is highly sought after by Asian markets for food and other places by cosmetic companies, too. The demand currently far exceeds supply! The Placencia Co-op is looking toward creating value-added products, such as soaps that are already selling for $7/bar. There’s continued local demand for traditional seaweed shakes that cost around $5/cup, too. (Check out the seaweed shakes at Placencia’s The Shak, The Galley Restaurant and Bar and Brewed Awakenings coffee shop).
Participants in the training learned how to create seaweed plots on land and then in water. The group learned various knot tying techniques, and how to properly maintain the seaweed farms; how to clean, harvest and dry it; when, how, and where to plant and maintain it. They also learned how to start the process again: 60% is harvested and 40% is left to regenerate. Seaweed farms can also serve as a nursery, providing protection for juvenile spiny lobsters and various fishes.
Only fishers participating in the managed access program are able to farm seaweed in PHMR. In all, 15 managed access fishers have signed up to take advantage.