Kappaphycus alvarezii – a sustainable source of income to local Brazilian communities

Kappaphycus alvarezii, also known as Eucheuma cottonii or Elkhorn Sea Moss, is one of the most important cultivated seaweed in the world. This seaweed is used mainly for the production of carrageenan, an important hydrocolloid used in the food and beverages, pharmaceutical, personal care and cosmetics industries. The global carrageenan market size was valued at USD 780.2 million in 2020 and it is expected to increase to USD 1.17 billion by 2027.

This seaweed is native to the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysian. However, it has been successfully introduced in more than 20 countries around the world for commercial cultivation. Kappaphycus was experimentally introduced in Brazil in 1995 in São Paulo and in 1998 in Rio de Janeiro. Since then, various monitoring and impact assessments have been carried out to ensure no negative impacts are caused by the cultivation of this species. Due to the low environmental risk of commercial cultivation of this seaweed in these areas, several licenses were granted by the Brazilian Government in both states (IN 185/2008 IBAMA) promoting a new source of income for the local communities.

In 2008, Professor Leila Hayashi started to evaluate the introduction and environmental impacts of Kappaphycus farming on the coast of Santa Catarina, through a joint venture between the University of Santa Catarina (UFSC) Santa Catarina State Agricultural Research and Rural Extension Agency (Epagri). In 2020, after 11 years of research and monitoring programs, the commercial cultivation of Kappaphycus was finally authorized (IN 1/2020 IBAMA) and the culture requisition authorization granted through the Technical Note 102/2020 CGODAU DEPOA SAP MAP, which deals with the “Procedure for requesting the cultivation and monitoring of Kappaphycus alvarezii in Santa Catarina's aquaculture parks”. Now Santa Catarina shellfish farmers can have another income alternative and the country will rely less on the import of this seaweed.