Seaweed production in France is ranked 9th worldwide and 2nd in Europe (after Norway), with an average of 90 000 tons of wet algae per year (including imports). 99% of this production originates from natural population harvesting, mainly off the coasts of Brittany.
Today the French seaweed industry employs more than 1600 people and implies roughly 80 companies related to seaweed harvesting, transformation and commercialization mainly localized in Brittany. This seaweed market reaches a value of 424 million euros.
The harvesting of natural populations at sea, especially Laminaria species used for hydrocolloid extraction, represent 60 000 tons per year with for a total income of 1.7-2.7 million euros (i.e. 45 euros/ton). 35 licenses are distributed among the harvesting fleet (35 boats), giving authorization to collect this natural biomass during the summer season (from May to October).
Collecting shore seaweed is mainly done by foot. The French regulation authorizes the harvesting of 12 distinct species, allowed by the ministry of health for direct consumption. 50 professional harvesters and about 300 occasional harvesters take part in shore seaweed production.
France imports about 55 000 tons of wet seaweed per year (i.e. 15 000 – 20 000 tons of dry seaweed) in order to complement the missing biomass during non-harvesting periods. 80% of the imports are used for extracting hydrocolloids and the residual 20% is used for the fine chemistry sector.