Growing seaweed to save the coast

Marine protectors: Woo showing the seaweed and the sea cucumber which it feeds on.

GEORGE TOWN: Growing a type of seaweed (called caulerpa racemosa) along the coast of newly reclaimed sites is vital to draw marine life back to their habitat.

Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) Marine Invertebrate Systematic and Biodiversity lecturer Dr Abe Woo said the seaweed, commonly known as sea grapes, can be found in Penang.

“When you have unnatural coastal areas which do not have enough complexity, it is monotypic (one type) and there is less chance of sea life returning to that area.

“It’s best to use the natural approach by growing this type of seaweed to enhance the habitat complexity along the shore.

“When you use something from the wild to create a natural surrounding, it’ll attract the colony back to its area.

“There is a need to incorporate the natural elements as a form of sustainability.

“It may not be cost-saving but it is always better not to disturb the ecosystem, ” he said at the Centre

for Coastal and Marine Studies (Cemacs) in Teluk Bahang recently.

Cemacs director Prof Datuk Dr Aileen Tan said they had been producing this type of seaweed.

“We try not to bring in something new, so we are using what we have in our sea here.

“If we are not careful, we might introduce an invasive species and our native species will be threatened.

“The sea grapes are available in Penang, ” she added.

Prof Tan said USM had been culturing the caulerpa for many years, adding that the species is edible and can provide coastal protection.

“We are exploring its use as aquaculture feed.

“For the past two months, we have been feeding it sea cucumber and so far, they have shown signs of digesting it well.

“It also helps to clear the water by absorbing excess nutrients in the sea that come from land-based industries and residential areas.

“It helps to absorb what is polluting the sea.

“In the long run, it will make a difference to the sea, ” she said.

Prof Tan also said it would take time before the native marine life return to their habitat.

“When there is reclamation with artificial structures in place, the existing biodiversity might not want to return to the original spot, ” she explained.

“It will take some time for them to familiarise themselves, ” she added.

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