Upcoming Changes to Commercial Harvest Regulations for Kelp and Other Marine Algae

bull kelp
Bull kelp canopy at the ocean’s surface
photo by K. Elsmore

The California Fish and Game Commission has adopted regulation amendments and new regulations for commercial harvest of kelp and other marine algae that will go into effect on January 1, 2023.

The amended regulations include temporary changes that expire on Jan. 1, 2026. The changes aim to reduce harvest pressure on bull kelp, which is in decline in Sonoma and Mendocino counties. The temporary amendments include:

  • Closure of commercial bull kelp harvest in Sonoma and Mendocino counties, regardless of use
  • An annual bull kelp harvest limit of 8,000 lbs. wet weight in Humboldt and Del Norte counties combined. Per existing regulation, harvest is only allowed for use as edible seaweed for human consumption.
    • Weekly harvest reporting in Humboldt and Del Norte counties by email in addition to required monthly reporting
  • Closure of three lease-only administrative kelp beds (308, 309, and 312) in Mendocino, Humboldt, and Del Norte counties

The new regulations pertain to all commercial harvest of marine algae. The more substantive changes pertaining to licensing and reporting requirements include:

bull kelp
Bull kelp
CDFW illustration by C. Makeyev
  • The harvesting license is now known as the Kelp Harvesting License and Drying Application, and will include a drying option for those who dry their harvest.
  • Monthly harvest reports will require reporting the number of individuals harvesting for the business during the reporting period, and central latitude/longitude coordinates of bull kelp harvest locations.
  • The Commercial Kelp Harvester’s Monthly Report will require separating reporting weights for bull kelp and giant kelp harvest.
  • Any inadvertent excess of bull kelp harvested in Humboldt and Del Norte counties will require the use of the Release of Property form.

The revised regulations include California Code of Regulations Title 14, sections 165 and 165.5, Appendix A, and the new Section 705.1. For more information on the new and/or amended regulations, please refer to the California Fish and Game Commission website.

If you have any questions regarding the new and/or amended regulations, please contact the California Department of Fish and Wildlife at kelp@wildlife.ca.gov.

post by Rebecca Flores Miller, CDFW Environmental Scientist