August 30, 2018

Navigating the Kelp Forest: Current Legal Issues Surrounding Seaweed Wild Harvest and Aquaculture

Catherine Janasie and Amanda Nichols

Seaweed and kelp have traditionally had many uses, including as both food sources and food additives. Currently, East Asia is the leader in seaweed and kelp production. However, there is a budding seaweed and kelp aquaculture and wild harvest industry in the United States, which presents economic benefits and novel legal considerations. The Maine seaweed and kelp harvest currently generates $20 million annually, making it one of the state’s most valuable commodities. Seaweed and kelp aquaculture in other areas could help replace traditional fisheries that are being negatively impacted by changing ocean conditions. In addition to these economic benefits, a commercial seaweed and kelp industry could also have significant ecological impacts—seaweed takes up carbon dioxide, draws down levels of nitrogen and phosphorus, and gives off oxygen, helping to improve water quality.

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