The fisheries bureau is inclined to lift the ban it imposed on the collection, selling, and export of Sargassum seaweed, in order to provide additional livelihood income to coastal communities and allow the study of its therapeutic and pharmaceutical uses.
Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) Assistant Regional Director Roberto Abrera said the ban imposed on this large brown sea grass that floats in island-like masses was done in 2014 under Fisheries Administrative Order No. 250.
“The ban was imposed because they serve as spawning grounds for fry species when they are attached to the seabed. BFAR is now reconsidering the sanction, and in fact, we’ve already conducted a series of hearings in areas in the country,” he stated.
With the national Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Management Council (FARMC), BFAR is now inclined to allow the gathering of those that drift to shorelines due to rough weather conditions.
“Other than its economic use as fertilizer, Sargassum now has been discovered to also have therapeutic potentials and health benefits,” he said, claiming the lifting of the ban is now being deliberated in the FARMC under Usec. Eduardo Gongona.
He explained the microalga is undergoing research and studies as insect repellents, fertilizers, and for having naturally high antioxidant contents, carotenoids and phenols, and also the anti-cancer compound fucoxanthin.
The farming of Sargassum, he said further, should be studied too, by research institutions like the Western Philippines University (WPU) to minimize future gathering in the wild.
Among organizations that are urging the BFAR to lift the Sargassum ban is the Seaweeds Industry Association of the Philippines (SIAP) headed by its chairman, Maximo Ricohermoso.
He said that before the ban, an estimated 30,000 metric tons of the brown seaweed are available for harvest with an annual value of Php450 million.
“Because of the ban, that goes to waste – a lost opportunity,” he said, adding more or less 70 percent of the said amount of metric tons is exported.
Abrera said practically, all Palawan’s coastlines have Sargassum seaweeds that are washed ashore, especially during the months of January to March.