A seaweed regeneration project initiated in November 2019 is bearing fruit, according to leading partner Nippon Steel Corporation.
The Japanese steelmaker, the coastal village of Tomari in the Furuu District of Hokkaido and the Furuu District Fisheries Co-operative Association launched the Creation of Sea Forests project late last year using something called the BeverlyTM Unit (an iron-supply steel slag product) in a seaweed bed that was lost because of sea 'desertification'. Regeneration of seaweed has just been announced and Nippon is describing its success as 'another step forward toward the creation of a rich sea, which will help promote the fisheries industry in the village'.
The rich sea resources traditionally found on the coastline of Tomari village – such as urchins and abalone – had once been harvested, but kelp, brown seaweed, and other varieties of seaweed had been lost due to the progression of sea desertification. The rich seabed that once helped grow marine resources disappeared, negatively affecting local fisheries.
In the autumn of 2018, following the example of Nippon Steel’s 'Creation of Sea Forests' 2002 project in Mashike Town, Hokkaido, Nippon Steel Corporation, Tomari Village in Furuu District, Hokkaido, and the Furuu District Fisheries Co-operative Association launched an experiment to regenerate the seabed. The project identified a shortage of iron as a cause of sea desertification so a total of three tons of the iron-supply steel slag product, otherwise known as the BeverlyTM Unit, was installed along two coastlines in November 2019. In July 2020, a survey of the areas of installation confirmed that a variety of seaweeds, including Hosome kelp, Nanbu brown seaweed, and brown algae, had been regenerated on the sea bed neighbouring the areas where BeverlyTM Unit had been installed. As regenerated seabeds are known to function to catch and store CO2, they are expected to counter global warming as a 'Blue Carbon' ecosystem. Blue carbon refers to the CO2 captured and stored by oceans and coastal ecosystems, which is similar to green carbon, which is the CO2 captured and stored by forests on land.
Tetsunori Takahashi, mayor of Tomari village, commented: "Tomari Village had prospered as a fishing village. Facing the Japan Sea and being centered around two fishery harbours, Tomari and Kabuto, we had long benefitted from rich marine resources. In recent years, however, mainly due to sea desertification, we lost our precious seaweed beds that nurtured fishery products. This had a grave impact on fishery resources and we were concerned with the resulting decline in the amount of fish caught. It was during this situation that the seaweed bed regeneration project called “Creation of Sea Forests” was launched. We then confirmed the steady regeneration of our lost seaweed beds. We can clearly see that seaweed is being regenerated in the areas surrounding where the BeverlyTMUnit was installed. It has reminded me of the good old days, when kelp made the sea coast look so black, before sea desertification. I am really hoping that the seaweed regeneration project will continue, the blessings of the sea will reach many people, and the shallow sea fishery industry will develop in Tomari Village."