Seaweed Review Steering Group


During the parliamentary scrutiny of the Scottish Crown Estate Act 2019, Roseanna Cunningham, Cabinet Secretary for the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, announced a review to gather evidence to help ensure existing seaweed harvesting activity and future proposals are sustainable and Scotland’s marine environment is protected.

We set up a Seaweed Review Steering Group to advise on all aspects of the review. Membership includes organisations from various sectors representing conservation, science, enterprise, biotechnology, fisheries and the seaweed industry association.

Latest developments

Statement on recent media commentary around mechanical dredging trials:

A misunderstanding has arisen following publication of papers from the 2nd seaweed review steering group, held on 27 September 2019.

The proposed work programme includes, the following possible deliverables:

  • “mechanical harvest of seaweed: undertake desk study of species and activities identified in scenario mapping / industry consultation to inform field trials”
  • “develop and commence field trials/pilot studies” 

This has been wrongly interpreted as mechanical harvesting trials of kelp are planned to start in Summer 2020. They are not. No trials have been commissioned or are planned to mechanically harvest kelp. 

At the meeting, the steering group agreed that, before any desk studies or field trials of any harvest method of any species could be considered, a scenario mapping exercise should be conducted. This will ensure that the review is grounded in where the future opportunities for the seaweed sector may be but balanced with environmental considerations and of those communities and sectors who share that space. This was clearly reflected in the note of the meeting published alongside the proposed work plan (GANTT chart). The note also states: “Officials clarified … it was there to indicate, subject to scenario mapping and subsequent desk studies, where in the chronology, field studies would be likely to happen”

Only species identified through scenario mapping as having potential (taking into account socio-economic but also environmental considerations) would be subject to further scrutiny through desk studies and only after that, and if the criteria is met, could any pilot or field trials commence. The proposed work plan (GANTT chart) has been amended to reflect this.

Any trial using a vehicle or a vessel to remove a substance or an object from the seabed would still need a licence from Marine Scotland, require consultation and only granted when Ministers are satisfied the activity is carried out within environmental limits.
The scenario mapping exercise is expected to commence in January 2020 and conclude in July 2020. Deliverables, to be agreed with the successful contractor at the inception meeting in January, will include engagement with key stakeholders to inform the exercise and a presentation of results to the seaweed review steering group. Progress will also be regularly and publicly reported.


Membership is appointed by Marine Scotland and subject to regular review to ensure an appropriate blend of expertise and representation is maintained, initially: 

  • Marine Scotland (Science, Licensing, Policy)
  • Scottish Government Manufacturing and Industries Division
  • Scottish Environment Link
  • Scottish Natural Heritage
  • Marine Alliance for Science and Technology for Scotland (MASTS) 
  • Crown Estate Scotland Interim Management (CES, IM)
  • Industrial Biotechnology Innovation Centre (IBioIC)
  • Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE)
  • Local Authority planners
  • Inshore Fisheries Group
  • Communities inshore fisheries alliance (CIFA)
  • Scottish Fishermen's Federation
  • Scottish Creel Fishermen's Federation
  • Scottish Seaweed Industry Association (representing small and larger scale harvesters and cultivation interests) 

Group to consider expanding the membership to include Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) and how best to ensure community groups and seaweed harvesters are represented.