The Meeting of the Seas, which has been taking place since last Monday in different locations in Andalusia, addressed the situation caused by Rugulopteryx Okamurae, an invasive algae that has already taken over the Andalusian coastline and threatens to spread throughout the whole Mediterranean.
Already at the beginning of this year, Carlos Duarte, from the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology of Saudi Arabia and scientific director of the Meeting, warned about an algae that was invading the Andalusian coast, very harmful but whose knowledge was very low, putting in alert scientists and contact cooks to find solutions, to work on their struggle, and the result of those contacts was debated yesterday on the second day of the meeting.
Fernando G. Brun, José Lucas Pérez Lloréns -catheratics at the University of Cádiz-, and the chef David Chamorro spoke about Rugulopteryx Okamurae, which they defined as “the algae with the fastest and most negative invasion that we have seen, it has already occupied the Andalusian maritime coastline, and will soon occupy a large part of the Mediterranean ”. An invasive alga, whose high growth rate, ease of dispersal and the absence of predators make it very dangerous, as evidenced by the fact that it has already become predominant in the area, reducing its diversity, which is a clear danger that puts in check environmental, economic and social sustainability.
It is an algae native to the Pacific between Japan and Korea, which arrived in Europe in 2002 with ballast waters from ships. It was in France where it was first discovered, although not invasive, which, however, it has had in the case of the Strait, where it arrived in 2016 to end up occupying, today, practically 100% of its seabed. “Invasions are not new in the Strait, but the ecosystem weakens with each invasion. Furthermore, we have not had any as invasive as this one ”, commented José Lucas Pérez Lloréns.
For his part, Fernando G. Brun explained that “it is not known why they have this invasive capacity and destroy everything in their path. This is because of its cytotoxic capacity, which means that it can kill other species in less than twenty-four hours. An environmental problem that becomes economic, for example, due to the resources needed to remove algae from beaches and coasts or the damage to tourism, for example ”.
Lloréns and Brun agreed that, first of all, it is necessary to raise awareness: “We cannot do much. We do not have technical or economic capacity. That they talk about it, that people get to know it to prevent it from reaching other areas. If we do not alert, it can become hegemonic in the Mediterranean. The technicians in charge of monitoring it and the people who live near the sea must be trained so that they know how to recognize it ”.
But, in addition to the monitoring and awareness program that the Meeting of the Seas has initiated, the contacts of months ago were aimed at fighting the plague by giving economic value to the species, according to the chef David Chamorro – former head of R&D. D in Aponiente, with Ángel León—, detailing that it is already used in pharmacology, due to its cytotoxic capacity, and is also used as fuel.
Regarding its use as a gastronomic ingredient, Chamorro has already taken some steps from its Food Idea Lab -center of gastronomic creativity that the chef has promoted since the end of last year-, and in the session on Tuesday, it presented the applications developed from the seaweed, taking into account its marine flavors, first, and bitter and spicy later.
Regarding its marine flavor, he explained that “it is an algae that seems that it does not want to be food.” As for its spicy capacity, he has worked with it, making a sriracha – a traditional Thai condiment – and a Tabasco called Tabanco, in homage to the typical Jerez taverns. And, finally, due to their bitter condition, they have been dehydrated and turned into powder, making a narrow, Algae Hot Bitter, an alcoholic distillate, Ballast water, a soda and a rebujito, products that, according to Chamorro, “can serve the industry gastronomic, but above all they are products that will collaborate to show a serious problem. It is our grain of sand in their fight ”.