Regulation Revisions Under Way for the Commercial Harvest of Marine Algae

giant kelp
Giant kelp

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is reviewing the regulations that govern the commercial harvest of marine algae along the California coast, primarily to improve clarity of the regulations and management policies.

Marine algae are important to nearshore ecosystems. They provide food and habitat for many marine animals, and biological services such as carbon dioxide absorption (during photosynthesis). In addition to their ecological importance, humans collect marine algae for a variety of uses. Native Americans historically and currently use marine algae for food, as a source of salt, for medicine, during religious ceremonies, and to make cords for fishing and other uses. Recreational and commercial fishermen harvest a variety of marine algae as well. At present, the majority of commercially harvested kelp in California feeds abalone raised for commercial retail (aquaculture), whereas other marine algae is primarily harvested as human food.

The last comprehensive review of commercial regulations for the harvest of marine algae was completed in 2001, and resulted in amended regulations that were adopted that same year. Then in 2012, in recognition of increased interest in the commercial harvest of marine algae, the California Fish and Game Commission (Commission) directed CDFW to develop an approach to guide the revision of regulations governing the commercial harvest of marine algae.

Giant kelp mechanical harvester off the Channel Islands

The Commission approved CDFW’s three-phase approach to revising the commercial regulations, setting the stage for the first phase of the process. Phase One, which addressed administrative corrections, was adopted by the Commission effective April 1, 2014. These amendments included improving the administrative kelp bed boundaries by changing the descriptions from compass headings and landmarks to spatially explicit points of latitude and longitude. This action resulted in new maps depicting the Administrative Kelp Beds which are available on the CDFW web page.

Phase Two will involve the review of existing license fees and royalty rates, and Phase Three will address management policies. Phase Two will begin in late 2015 and will involve public scoping meetings to discuss commercial kelp and edible seaweed license fees and royalty rates. Phase Three will follow Phase Two and will focus on kelp and edible seaweed management policies including marine algae harvest methods. CDFW will continue to keep the public informed about the regulation revision process and will provide opportunities to participate in the process.

post by Rebecca Flores Miller, CDFW Environmental Scientist    giant kelp photo by R Flores Miller; mechanical harvester – CDFW file photo