Wild seaweed harvesting: strategic environmental assessment - environmental report

Investigates the sustainability and potential environmental impacts of wild seaweed and seagrass harvesting, maerl extraction and removal of beach-cast seaweed.

1. Introduction

1.1. Wild Seaweed and Seagrass Harvesting

1.1.1. Seaweed and seagrass play an important role in marine and coastal ecosystems and also provide a significant number of ecosystem services. Seaweed and seagrass harvesting is undertaken in many countries for a range of end uses, including by the pharmaceutical and foodstuffs industries.

1.1.2. Until recently the wild seaweed sector in Scotland was small, however the sector is looking to grow with existing companies expanding and new proposals coming forward to harvest at a larger scale. A Strategic Environmental Assessment ( SEA) has been undertaken to ensure that such harvesting of wild seaweed in Scotland is sustainable [1] , to assist decision making and to inform future policy.

1.2. Strategic Environmental Assessment

1.2.1. The Environmental Assessment (Scotland) Act 2005 ("the Act") requires the assessment of certain plans, programmes and strategies (including policies) that may have significant effects on the environment. Strategic Environmental Assessment ( SEA) is the process used to fulfil this requirement.

1.2.2. A screening exercise was carried out by Marine Scotland and this found that wild seaweed harvesting has the potential to give rise to significant environmental effects unless it is undertaken in a sustainable manner. It was concluded that an SEA should be undertaken.

1.3. Report Purpose and Structure

1.3.1. The purpose of this Environmental Report is to document the findings of the SEA. The remainder of this report is structured as follows:

  • Following this introductory section,
  • Section 2 sets out the approach to the SEA, including the scope of the harvesting activity, the scope of the assessment, the reasonable alternatives and the methods used.
  • Section 3 provides background information about seaweed species and distribution and discusses their use as a natural resource.
  • Section 4 gives a general description of the physical environment and water quality in Scottish coastal ecosystems, then discusses some of the diverse marine species.
  • Section 5 describes ecological functions, habitats and shelter provided by seaweed and seagrasses and discusses their contributions to primary and secondary production.
  • Section 6 The potential effects of wild seaweed and seagrass harvesting on the ecological function of seaweeds and seagrasses are reviewed and discussed in this section.
  • Section 7 investigates the climatic factors that affect seaweed and may be impacted by seaweed harvesting.
  • Section 8 discusses impacts on cultural heritage.
  • Section 9 introduces a risk matrix based on current evidence and mitigation
  • Section 10 presents an assessment of reasonable alternatives.
  • Section 11 discusses the potential for cumulative effects.
  • Section 12 provides a summary of the assessment findings.
  • References and supporting information are provided in Section 13 and the appendices, respectively.
  • Appendices include background information to mapping methods, environmental objectives, seaweed and seagrasses, protected sites and the evidence base.


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