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Commercial Harvest of Kelp and Other Marine Algae

There are link opens in new window87 administrative kelp beds located offshore of California’s mainland and surrounding the Channel Islands. The kelp beds contain giant or bull kelp, or a combination of both. As of November 2016, each kelp bed falls within one of the following management categories:

Status Management Category Number of Kelp Beds
Open Available to harvest by all commercial kelp harvesters 33
Leasable Available to harvest by commercial kelp harvesters, until an exclusive lease is granted by the California Fish and Game Commission, then only available to the lessee 28 are leasable, 5 are currently leased
Lease only Commercial harvest of kelp is prohibited unless an exclusive lease is granted by the California Fish and Game Commission 3
Closed Commercial harvest of kelp is prohibited 18

All commercial harvesters of marine algae must purchase an annual commercial kelp harvester license and abide by commercial algae harvest regulations (California Code of Regulations [CCR], Title 14, Sections link opens in new window165 and link opens in new window165.5).  Eelgrass (Zostera species) and surfgrass (Phyllospadix species) are prohibited from commercial harvest.

A commercial kelp harvesting license can be purchased at the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) office at 4665 Lampson Avenue, Suite C, Los Alamitos, CA 90720. You may also call CDFW at (562) 342-7100 to request an application.

Commercial Marine Algae Harvest Data

Graph 2 - Commercial kelp harvest logbook data for giant and bull kelp, 1931-2015
Commercial kelp harvest logbook data for giant and bull kelp, 1931-2015


Graph 3 - Commercial edible algae harvest logbook data, 1997-2015
Commercial edible algae harvest logbook data, 1997-2015

Informational Digest: Regulations Governing the Harvest of Kelp and Other Marine Algae in California

  • link opens in new windowInformational Digest (PDF) (4.4 MB)
    Includes the following:
    • General information on the commercial harvest of kelp, edible marine algae, and agar-bearing algae
    • Fish and Game Code Sections 6650-6751: Regulations for the Commercial Harvest of Kelp and Other Aquatic Plants
    • CCR Title 14, Sections 165 and 165.5: Regulations for the Commercial Harvest of Kelp and Other Aquatic Plants
    • Commercial Kelp Harvester's Monthly Report
    • Commercial Edible Seaweed/Agar Harvester's Monthly Report

Regulation Amendments

Recognizing an increased interest in the commercial harvest of marine algae, the California Fish and Game Commission (Commission) and CDFW began discussions to amend regulations to improve the management of California's marine algae resources. In 2012, the Commission directed CDFW to develop an approach to guide the revision of regulations governing the commercial marine algae harvest. CDFW developed a three-phase approach to guide the revision of the regulations. The Commission adopted link opens in new windowPhase One amendments effective April 1, 2014. The amendments included updating administrative kelp bed boundaries and making editorial changes to improve clarity and consistency of the regulations.

The next phase will focus on edible seaweed, agar-bearing algae, and kelp management policies, including harvest methods. CDFW anticipates hosting public scoping meetings on these issues in 2017. A review of the commercial kelp and edible seaweed license fees and royalty rates will follow at a later date.

Further Information:



Marine Region (Region 7)
Regional Manager: Dr. Craig Shuman
Main Office: 20 Lower Ragsdale Drive, Suite 100, Monterey, CA  93940
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