On the east and west coasts of the U.S. and Canada, around Maine, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and British Columbia, some companies have begun cultivating macroalgae onshore, in tanks, specifically for human consumption, and their markets are growing, both in those two countries and with exports to Japan. Ireland and Northern Ireland are showing a renewed interest in macroalgae that were once a traditional part of the diet. In addition to direct consumption, agars and carrageenans extracted from red macroalgae and alginates from brown macroalgae and microalgae have been included in a remarkable array of prepared food products, serving mostly to modify viscosity or texture. Global utilization of macroalgae is on increase, and in terms of harvested biomass per year, macroalgae are among the most important cultivated marine organisms.
Most output is used domestically for food, but there is a growing international trade. The Porphyra cultivation in Japan is the biggest macroalgae industry, with a turnover of more than 2 billion U.S. dollars per annum. Total EU imports of macroalgae in 2002 amounted to 70,000 metric tons with the Philippines, Chile, and Indonesia as the biggest suppliers. Significant quantities of Eucheuma are exported by the Philippines, Tanzania, and Indonesia to the U.S., Denmark, and Japan. The Philippines account for nearly 80% of the world’s total Eucheuma cottonii production of 1,300,000 tons, roughly 35% of which is traded in dried form. They supply 14% of the world’s total raw macroalgae production and hold first rank as producers of semirefined carrageenan, contributing close to 60% of the world market. Table 7.1 shows the FAO data relative to the total macroalgae harvest for the period 2000–2002 in all fishing areas of the world.
Large-scale commercial production of microalgae biomass is limited to Dunaliella, Haematococcus, Arthrospira, and Chlorella, which are cultivated in open ponds at farms located around the world.
These algae are a source for viable and inexpensive carotenoids, pigments, proteins, and vitamins that can be used for the production of nutraceuticals, pharmaceuticals, animal feed additives, and cosmetics. Examples of large-scale commercial production are the large lagoons used in Australia for Dunaliella salina cultivation aimed at β-carotene production, the ponds that Cyanotech Enterprise own in Australia, and Earthrise farms in California for Haematococcus cultivation aimed at astaxanthin production.
Cyanotech Enterprise claimed that in the 2004 their net sales were about $12 billion, with a net income only in the fourth quarter of $400,000.
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