DIFFERENT THALLUS REGIONS
Large-scale seaweed cultivation has been instrumental in globalizing the seaweed industry since the 1950s. The domestication of seaweed cultivars (begun in the 1940s) ended the reliance on natural cycles of raw material availability for some species, with efforts driven by consumer demands that far exceeded the available supplies. Currently, seaweed cultivation is unrivaled in mariculture with 94% of annual seaweed biomass utilized globally being derived from cultivated sources. In the last decade, research has confirmed seaweeds as rich sources of potentially valuable, health-promoting compounds. Most existing seaweed cultivars and current cultivation techniques have been developed for producing commoditized biomass, and may not necessarily be optimized for the production of valuable bioactive compounds. The future of the seaweed industry will include the development of high value markets for functional foods, cosmeceuticals, nutraceuticals, and pharmaceuticals. Entry into these markets will require a level of standardization, efficacy, and traceability that has not previously been demanded of seaweed products. Both internal concentrations and composition of bioactive compounds can fluctuate seasonally, geographically, bathymetrically, and according to genetic variability even within individual species, especially where life history stages can be important. History shows that successful expansion of seaweed products into new markets requires the cultivation of domesticated seaweed cultivars. Demands of an evolving new industry based upon efficacy and standardization will require the selection of improved cultivars, the domestication of new species, and a refinement of existing cultivation techniques to improve quality control and traceability of products.