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Gracilaria (Gracilaria gracilis) is a seaweed native to Patagonia that forms extensive meadows that cover the soft mobile seabeds, which are not generally covered by other seaweed species. It prevents erosion and provides shelter for fish and marine invertebrates such as crabs, starfish and snails.
Until about 20 years ago it was a seaweed of high economic interest, from which a gelling and thickening product known as agar, used in the pharmaceutical, cosmetic and food industries was extracted. Initially it was harvested in large quantities when it detached naturally and washed ashore in events called arribazones. As these events diminished, it was harvested directly from the sea, and over time its abundance diminished so severely that it was no longer economically viable to process it, which led to the disappearance of this activity.
Currently, our team is working to regenerate gracilaria meadows by replanting it in sites where it is sparse, in a slow and laborious process that must be done manually by divers. Worldwide, it is one of few projects aimed at restoring algae meadows for conservation purposes.