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September 20, 2017

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Spaniards in troubled financial waters seek seaweed riches

Ortigueira, Spain--Three young Spaniards in wetsuits plunge into the sea to harvest a culinary delicacy that promises them a way out of troubled financial waters: seaweed.

Armed with stainless steel scythes, they swim in low tide from rock to rock cutting down codium seaweed and kombu kelp, which they gather up in bags.

The trio — 35-year-old marine scientist Alberto Sanchez, his sister Maria and his friend, 33-year-old biologist Sergio Baamonde — carry the sea greens by foot to their car, parked at the top of nearby cliffs.

Then they transport the algae to a processing factory set up by the two friends in the Galician sea port of Ortigueira, northern Spain.

"It is tough but we are very motivated," said Baamonde, who joined up with Sanchez in April 2012 to launch into the seaweed business, with other prospects scarce in a country hit by an economic crisis that has left one in four people out of work.

They have established a company, Ardora Sea Preserves, to sell edible seaweed, an industry that took root in the Galicia region in the 1980s.

In 2012, sales of ecological seaweed and related foods in Galicia amounted to 3.8 million euros (US$5 million), according to the region's maritime and environmental minister, Rosa Quintana.

Gourmet Seaweed

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