Issues, Concerns and Challenges on the Tawi-Tawi Seaweed Industry

By Johnny R. Lee

My previous written articles on seaweed farming and the industry as a whole described the rosy picture that it brought to the hundreds (30k or more) of Tawi-Tawi coastal dwellers and the ‘upward supply-chain’ comprising the local buyers, middlemen, traders, labor sectors, big-time buyers till it reached its external recipients responsible for its export to foreign lands like the USA, France, Japan and China to name a few. 

Seaweed derivatives known as ‘carrageenan’ has been mentioned previously as an important export commodity that has ‘thousands of uses’ as additives in food production, pharmaceutical products, health and wellness components, etc., has an underlying side-effects and future ‘environmental burden’ to the overall ecological system of the area where hundreds of hectares are being utilized for farm plots to produce the thousands of tonnage of seaweed products.

Ecological study suggests that the sea or the ocean, which has been previously thought as inexhaustible and never ending source of food and convenient dumping ground, can be breached if heavily exploited and has a limit if constantly pressured to its capacity. 

This writer, who has a keen background as a graduate of fishery biology and marine science, has always thought that in the foreseeable future if the seaweed industry is left at its current pace of production without interventions from concern government entities like the Bureau of Fisheries and other Environmental bureaucracies, may one day find that the industry which provides the people a good source of income and ‘blessings’ will totally disappear and collapse because it is poorly managed and regulated! 

This writer does not predict a ‘grim scenario’ to dishearten the thousands of people who depend their livelihood on the seaweed industry but instead will try to  ‘educate’ them on the long term ‘ill-effect’ if the so-called ‘sustainable development’ will be overlooked. Will discuss factors and ‘what-to-dos’ to counter the impending destruction that would come in my upcoming write-ups. (JRL)

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