The Solomon Islands include some of the most unique and beautiful ecosystems in the world but economic opportunities are limited and are often associated with environmental impacts. The Solomons are the second largest archipelago in the South Pacific with over 992 islands, and a landmass of 28,000km2 spread over 2 million square kilometres of ocean. It is home to a population of nearly 600,000 Melanesians, Polynesians, Micronesians and people from other backgrounds.
Global interest in seaweed production is increasing in response to the environmental and economic benefits that seaweed farming can provide. Seaweed is used directly as a food and to produce additives such as carrageenan and alginates used in icecream, gels, cosmetics and animal food. Successful seaweed farms already exist in parts of the Solomons, and there is the potential to expand these to other regions of the archipelago. They provide a sustainable alternative to other more extractive industries and farms also have the potential to sequester atmospheric carbon dioxide as “blue” carbon and mitigate ongoing climate change.
In collaboration with the Solomon Island Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources and Makem Strong Solomon Islands Fisheries (MSSIF), we developed Geographic Information System (GIS) based tools to help plan for sustainable seaweed farming and provide important income for isolated communities while conserving local environments. GIS are spatial databases that integrate data across many formats, scales and fields of research in readily interpreted maps. These allow managers, stakeholders and community to visually explore, discuss and compare options for management under different environmental, economic and cultural scenarios.