GOVERNMENT subsidy and support will be “necessary” to establish seaweed farming as a new industry for Scotland’s coastal communities, a new report has said.

The research found that Scotland’s seas are “ideal for cultivation of seaweeds such as kelp”, with interest in kelp farming “rapidly expanding” as a way of creating a sustainable and alternative livelihood.

However, the study, published by the Sustainable Inshore Fisheries Trust (Sift), warned there are “major barriers to development” of seaweed farming and new businesses in the sector can face “daunting tasks”. One of the areas identified as being “necessary to facilitate development of the seaweed cultivation industry in Scotland” is government subsidy and support specifically for the kelp farming industry.

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Sift executive director Charles Millar said: “Ministers have a unique opportunity to establish a new and potentially valuable part of Scotland’s marine economy, which benefits coastal communities and the coastal environment.”

Since 2018, applications have been lodged for seaweed farms covering more than two million square metres of Scottish coastal waters.

Millar cautioned the “folly of other nations” must not be repeated, either by the over-exploitation of wild stocks or by allowing a “small handful of multi-nationals to dominate”, as he said had happened in the salmon farming sector.

As well as a need for government subsidy and support, the report identified investment in and the development of processing facilities as being key, along with improved organisation and co-operation between kelp farmers.

The report said: “The Scottish Government could help co-operation by providing kelp farmers with funds to create voluntary ‘producers organisations’ or ‘farmer-owned processing companies’, which would allow farmers to strengthen their market position and overcome supply chain bottlenecks.”