Marine Institute

Socioeconomic Study of Seaweed Harvesting


Improving knowledge on the current socioeconomic value Seaweed harvesting plays a very important role in the culture and economies of many rural Irish communities. Harvesting provides employment to an estimated 150 individuals, with numerous processing businesses, from micro to SME scale using the resource to produce various products. The age profile of seaweed harvesters is heavily skewed towards older workers with only a few percentage of harvesters under the age of 30. The industry has experienced difficulty recruiting younger workers due to the challenging nature of the work and the draw of more lucrative opportunities in urban centres. In addition to harvesting, seaweed provides indirect economic benefits through its inclusion in activities such as foraging walks, marine biology education programmes, seaweed baths and as ingredients used by local food businesses. These benefits contribute to employment but also to cultural richness of many small communities in the west of Ireland. This project aimed to capture the number of people involved in this form of seaweed use to better quantify these benefits.

This project was primarily a desktop study that relied on existing sources of information and extensive surveying of both harvesters/growers and businesses or organisations within the seaweed sector. Through a comprehensive survey of the key stakeholders, data and information was collated to map and value the seaweed supply chain, create an industry wide directory, develop best practice recommendations for seaweed resource management and reporting, and prepare the required final report and summary fact sheet and presentation. The final report, and associated communication materials, provide a clear snapshot of the Irish seaweed industry and identify the issues, challenges, barriers and opportunities for continued industry growth and development.

Project Outputs

  1. Project database
  2. Industry directory
  3. Spatial mapping of seaweed harvesting and processors
  4. Best practices recommendations for sustainable harvesting and reporting
  5. Final report
  6. Knowledge transfer event including fact sheet and presentation

Project details

December 2020 – January 2022

Funding: Marine Institute: €78,600


  • Clean Technology Centre
  • Benton Ecological Solutions