Eritrea’s pristine coastline is highly known for its abundant marine resources. Various studies have so far been carried out to identify potential marine resources and to what extent these assets could be harnessed. Marine species that are on the verge of extinction at a global level still exist in large quantity in the country’s coastal lines. A wide variety of seaweeds are among the marine resources of this coastal line. Seaweeds, known as macro-algae, that are green, brown and red are expected to make a difference in the realization food security.
Apart from fish meal, the consumption of seaweeds as food would be largely introduced in the country provided that rigorous study on the biochemical composition of such seaweeds is conducted to identify their nutritional components.
China, Japan, Korea are the largest consumers of seaweed as food. The experience of such countries is a lesson Eritrea has to learn from.
Eritrea has a coastline of more than 1200 kms which is rich in marine resources. However, these resources have not yet been adequately exploited as the main source of food in Eritrea is grain-based. A recent study carried out on the “Biochemical Composition of Selected Seaweeds from Northern Red Sea of Massawa Coast of Eritrea and their Utilization” has identified 10 species of seaweed that could be used as food sources.
Mr. Madhu Babu K. and Mr. Mogos Girmatsion have carried out the study, which has brought a new insight into the importance of seaweeds and their utilization as food.
The study which was conducted on selected seaweeds based on their nutrient content has confirmed that they can be utilized as food sources for humans, as fertilizers and as animal feed.
Seaweeds are potentially good sources of protein, polysaccharides, minerals and certain vitamins, and this makes them nutritionally more valuable than many vegetables. So the findings of the research have helped in the identification and utilization of the highly nutritious marine macro algae that are recommended for human and animal use.
Since the high nutritional component of seaweeds has already been identified the harvesting and utilization of such macro-algae will have a substantial impact on the realization of food security.
The researchers have also consulted Ateweberhan and Prud (2005) survey on the marine macro-algae present in the Eritrean coast. According to the study 101 macro-algae were recorded in the Eritrean coastal lines. That survey resulted in 36 new records for Eritrea, and 26 are new for the Red Sea.
In the recent research, all the samples used for the analysis were collected from the Red Sea coast of Gurgussum (12 km North) and Hirgigo Bay (8 km South) of Massawa, the port city of Eritrea.
Among the collected samples a total of ten were selected based on their abundance. The selected species of seaweeds are Halimeda Opuntia, Enteromorpha Clathrata, Caulerpha Sertularioides, Enteromorpha Compressa, Padina Borengesenii, Dictyota Dichotoma, Dictyota Ciliolate, Sargassum Subrepandum, Cystoseira Myrica and Gracilaria Canaliculata.
The results of the present study have shown that all ten species contain almost all the proximate components required for human body. So these plants can be used in the preparation of various recipes for human consumption.
The study has revealed that seaweeds in Massawa coast are nutritionally beneficial although further study has to be conducted to determine the essential minerals and other elements of the weeds.
Seaweeds have various uses at agro-industrial level including in the preparation of feed for livestock and prawn, fertilizer and biogas production.
It is, however, significant to notice that seaweeds need to be cultured to prevent the sea from being overexploited.
The initial study is beneficial for the profitable exploitation of the living resources from the sea. This helps in identifying potential areas for judicious utilization of such resources and to carry out activities that help in identifying various marine resources that could be used as food sources. The study carried out on seaweeds and their nutritious importance needs to be developed and extensive researche should be conducted in other coastal areas.
As the study was confined to 10 species of seaweeds, the potential of the remaining species and especially those that are rare to the Red Sea and mainly those newly recorded for Eritrea need to be studied for their biochemical composition to identify their nutritional as well as commercial importance.
The rate and the extent of organic production determines the relative yield of marine resources in different regions of the sea and inappropriate exploitation would risk the availability of beneficial seaweeds.
The preliminary study has identified potential seaweeds that could be consumed as food. In the future, however, well-equipped and funded projects should be launched to determine the availability of such resources and to take measures that ensure sustainable exploitation of the resources.