Seaweed has become a valuable commodity. Farming it has long been a lucrative undertaking in places like Japan, China and Indonesia. However, the use of species like kelp in other products, such as cosmetics and medication, and growing interest in seaweed as a healthy food have led to a farming boom. In places where pollution, climate change and overfishing have hurt commercial fishing operations, seaweed cultivation is a welcome alternative that allows people to keep making their living from the ocean.
The underwater plants are relatively easy to grow if the right species is matched with the right conditions. Neither feed or fertilizer is required. Because of this all-natural growth, seaweed can be a supplement to other types of aquaculture, such as shellfish or shrimp farming. Some experts are concerned about the seaweed boom changing conditions in vulnerable coastal ecosystems, but others welcome the trend as a less invasive way of making money from the oceans.