To many people, the term seaweeds refers to the yucky brown or green stuff that sticks to your legs at the beach. To others, however, it means big business, and to some researchers, seaweeds equals big science. Marine biologist Thierry Chopin, University of New Brunswick in St. John, Canada, citing United Nations statistics, says that in 1998, 21.7 percent of the 39.4 million metric tons of aquaculture products sold worldwide consisted of seaweeds, totaling $5.9 billion. Moreover, seaweeds accounted for 44 percent of annual marine production, second only to mollusks, at 47 percent.

Seaweeds are excellent sources of polysaccharides. Commercially, seaweed extracts produce the food thickener carrageenan, agar for food and biological research uses, docosahexaenoic acid, fertilizer, vitamins, and other products. One of the most profitable marine aquaculture products is nori (the red alga Porphyra), used for wrapping the near-ubiquitous sushi. This market exceeds $1.61 billion a year....

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