Seaweed an increasingly fragile lifeline for Philippine farmers

  • Commercial seaweed farming began in the Philippines in the 1970s and has grown to be one of the country’s most significant aquaculture enterprises, supporting more than 200,000 coastal families.
  • In communities in Palawan, seaweed farming also plays a role in protecting marine life, with small farmers serving as extra eyes and ears in the fight against illegal fishing.
  • As climate change intensifies, warmer waters are making seaweed farms more susceptible to pests and diseases, threatening the survival of the industry and the families that depend on it.

Balintang, PHILIPPINES — “Seaweeds are important to me because they give me joy when we plant them,” says Melinda Gimotea, as she crouches down among the pile of seaweed seedlings under her stilt house on the southwestern coast of the Philippines’ Palawan province. Facing the teal blue sea on a fine July morning, the 55-year-old ties the olive-green plant cuttings to ropes with floaters, each spanning 25 meters (82 feet).

In her village, Balintang, seaweed farming builds a sense of community and strengthens family ties, as it gives opportunities for community members to connect with each other, Gimotea says:  “It’s a time when we get a chance to bond with my neighbors, with my family.”

Early the next morning, she hops with her husband on a 2-meter-long outrigger boat and paddle a few meters offshore until she reaches her 2,500-square-meter (0.62-acre) farm. There, they drop the prepared seaweed lines and leave them until they’re ready for harvest in 45 days.


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