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Document type
Journal articles

Document subtype
Full paper

Global shortage of technical agars: back to basics (resource management)

Participants in the publication
Rui Santos (Author)
Ricardo A. Melo (Author)
Dep. Biologia Vegetal
MARE-ULisboa - Centro de Ciências do Mar e Ambiente-ULisboa

Bacteriological and technical agars are in short supply with potential consequences for research, public health, and clinical labs around the world. To diagnose bottlenecks and sustainability problems that may be putting the industry at risk, we analyzed the available time series for the global landings of Gelidium, the most important raw materials for the industry. Data on the harvest of Gelidium spp. have been reported since1912, when Japan was the only producer. After World War II the diversification of harvested species and producing countries resulted in a strong increase in global landings. Maximum harvest yields of almost 60,000 t year−1 in the 1960s were sustained until the 1980s, after which landings decreased continuously to the present. In the 2010s, a reduction in the global production to about 25,000 t year−1 was observed, which was lower than the yields of the 1950s. Landings by important producers such as Japan, Korea, Spain, and Portugal have collapsed. This is the ultimate cause of the present shortage of bacteriological and technical agars. However, an important factor at play is the concentration of the global landings of Gelidium in Morocco, as its relative contribution increased from 23% in the 1960s to the present 82%. Two specific bottlenecks were identified: restrictive export quotas of unprocessed Gelidium in favor of the national agar industry and resource management regulations that were apparently not enforced resulting in over-harvesting and resource decline. The global industry may well be dependent on resource management basics. Simple harvest statistics must be gathered such as the harvest effort and the variation of harvest yields along the harvest season. We discuss how this information is fundamental to manage the resource. The available harvest statistics are generally poor and limited and vary significantly among different sources of data. Probable confusions between dry and wet weight reporting and poor discrimination of the species harvested need to be resolved.

Date of Publication

Where published
Journal of Applied Phycology

Publication Identifiers
ISSN - 0921-8971

Springer Science and Business Media LLC


Starting page
Last page

Document Identifiers

SCIMAGO Q1 (2018) - 0.759 - Plant Science
Web Of Science Q1 (2018) - 2.635 - MARINE & FRESHWATER BIOLOGY - SCIE

Resource management Harvest statistics Pterocladiella Gelidium


Rui Santos, Ricardo A. Melo, (2018). Global shortage of technical agars: back to basics (resource management). Journal of Applied Phycology, 30, 2463-2473. ISSN 0921-8971. eISSN .

Rui Santos, Ricardo A. Melo, "Global shortage of technical agars: back to basics (resource management)" in Journal of Applied Phycology, vol. 30, pp. 2463-2473, 2018. 10.1007/s10811-018-1425-2

@article{37497, author = {Rui Santos and Ricardo A. Melo}, title = {Global shortage of technical agars: back to basics (resource management)}, journal = {Journal of Applied Phycology}, year = 2018, pages = {2463-2473}, volume = 30 }