What Does Sustainable Seaweed Harvest Look Like?

Seaweed Harvest Mendocino Coast

My post on nori harvest two years ago was vague because I was hesitant to encourage more people to get out there and possibly damage the environment.

As individuals we have responsibilities not to over-harvest, but like many issues the large-scale commercial operations and loss of habitat are the real culprits. If that is the case, why should we care? I think we cultivate an attitude of respect that reverberates throughout our lives and to all we contact.

What can we do to both protect the marine ecosystems and provide nutritious edible seaweed for our families?

Listen to wildcrafters who are committed to ethical harvest standards:

  • How much to harvest in one area,
  • The importance of pollution-free waters because some seaweeds accumulate metals and become contaminated by sewage, agricultural, industrial, and  radioactive wastes.
  • Protect the plant’s viability by cutting rather than pulling or raking.
  • Cutting distance from the anchor point to allow for regeneration.

Respect the state and local regulations. In Washington state, for example:

  • a license is required,
  • 10 lbs wet-weight limit,
  • specifications for harvest techniques for kelp, bull kelp, and nori


Ryan Drum, a wildcrafter and biochemist from Waldron Island has a healthy perspective. Learn from a master herbalist On June 15th on Orcas Island. http://www.ryandrum.com/index.htm#workshops

Commercial Harvesting of Wild Seaweed

Sustainable seaweed harvest has been in the news a lot lately from Scientific American to the Huffington Post. http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/help-for-kelp-seaweed-slashers-see-harvesting-cuts-coming/

Industrial processing converts seaweed into the raw materials carrageen and alginate, basic components that act as gels and glue in everything from ice cream to paints and cosmetics. Global consumption is roughly 21 million metric tons a year.

More than 95 % of global seaweed production is from farmed operations. But before the last remaining wild stands are dragged and vacuumed, the Marine Stewardship Council, an international organization recognized for eco-labeling will set standards by January 2015. Europe countries bordering the north Atlantic are also establishing their own criteria.

Upcoming brief blog posts will include more seaweed fun facts. Steven Foster, an herbalist concerned with ethical wildcrafting recently posted this: Fair-wild Standard


One thought on “What Does Sustainable Seaweed Harvest Look Like?

  1. you might be interested in facebook site ban seaweed harvesting
    We have quite a number of connections with small scale harvesters around the world and accept fully that what they do does not damage the environment or ecologies in any way – however here they have 14 fifteen meter specially built trawlers who go out most days -they have a capacity of 120 tons which is far exceeded per load – our local deppo takes in over 500 tons per day – or so they say – we have no reason to disbelieve that – Cheers

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