Seaweeding Algae & Seaweed Growing

How is Seaweed Harvested from the Wild? Complete Guide to Collecting Sea Plants in the USA

How is seaweed harvested from wild usa

Seaweed is a nutritional marine-based plant that has been harvested from coastal waters around the globe for centuries. Knowing how is seaweed harvested is an important part of life in coastal communities throughout the United States.

Common Types of Seaweed to Harvest in the US

For those who live near the US coastline, countless varieties of seaweed can be harvested for culinary purposes.

Popular types of seaweed you can collect are:

Nori (Porphyra spp.)

Nori is considered to be one of the most well-known forms of edible seaweed. It plays a crucial role in Japanese cuisine, where it is commonly used to wrap sushi rolls. You can purchase Nori in dried form, at various supermarkets, but fresh Nori is always the best. This particular seaweed has a mild flavor and is rich in vitamins, minerals, as well as antioxidants.

Wakame (Undaria pinnatifida)

When it comes to seaweed that provides a sweeter flavor and a more tender texture, look no further than wakame. This particular seaweed is commonly found in Asian soups and salads. It is rich in several items including A, C, D, and K. Wakame is also an excellent source of essential minerals like magnesium, calcium, as well as iodine.

How to harvest seaweed WAKAME
Pictured: WAKAME seaweed

Kombu (Saccharina japonica)

Kelp is most commonly referred to as kombu in the culinary industry. This large brown seaweed is the central ingredient in making Japanese dashi broth. Although there are many different varieties of kombu, Saccharina japonica is considered to be the most popular. It provides food with a deep umami flavor and is prized for having a high glutamic acid content.

Dulse (Palmaria palmata)

You will find dulse along the northern coast of both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. This popular red seaweed has a chewy texture and gives food a savory yet smoky flavor. This particular form of seaweed is often used to make snacks for those who are on the go thanks to its protein content. It can also be used in salads as well as soups.

Bladderwrack (Fucus spp.)

Another form of brown seaweed that is commonly harvested along the US coastline is bladderwrack. This particular seaweed is most well known for its medicinal properties and is often used as an herbal supplement. It is rich in iodine, fucoidans, as well as antioxidants.

Sea moss (Chondrus crispus)

Wildcrafted sea moss is a popular health supplement, both consumed in drinks and applied topically in creams and other beauty products. It can also be dried and put into sea moss capsules. It is harvested during low tide from rocky coastlines, particularly around the Pacific Coast (California), Atlantic Coast (Maine, Rhode Island) and Gulf Coast (eg Florida).

Learn more on how to harvest sea moss from the wild in this guide.

How to Harvest Seaweed Legally in the USA

Before you can begin your journey out to the coastline to harvest seaweed on your own, it is important to take the time to understand the local regulations and guidelines.

How is Seaweed Harvested Legally – Practical Guidelines for Foragers

Identifying Suitable and Permitted Seaweed Harvesting Areas

Take the time to research where seaweed harvesting is permitted. You can find information regarding harvesting areas from the local and state marine resource management agencies. Most states will have specific designations for harvesting zones which you must adhere to strictly.

Following Local Regulations & Respecting Protected Zones

You will also want to familiarize yourself with the specific regulations in your area that govern the collection of seaweed. This is a crucial aspect as some regions of the country may have protected marine areas where you are not allowed to harvest seaweed as it may inadvertently damage the local ecosystem.

More Info on Seaweed Harvesting Regulations in the USA

East Coast

Maine

To harvest seaweed in the state of Maine, you will need to reach out to the Maine Department of Marine Resources and pay an annual fee for the issuance of a license.

New Hampshire

The state of New Hampshire issues licensing for the harvesting of wild seaweed through New Hampshire Fish and Game.

Massachusetts

The Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries is the lead agency responsible for issuing licensing for seaweed harvesting within the state.

Rhode Island

You can obtain a 15-year license to harvest seaweed from the Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council.

Connecticut

The Connecticut Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Aquaculture is the lead agency within the state that is responsible for issuing licenses to harvest seaweed from coastal waters.

New York

To obtain a license to harvest seaweed in the state of New York, you will need to reach out to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

West Coast

Alaska

You can obtain a license to harvest wild seaweed along Alaskan coastlines from the Alaska Department of Natural Resources.

Washington

The issuance of permits to harvest seaweed within the state of Washington can be obtained from both JARPA as well as the Washington Department of Natural Resources.

Oregon

The Oregon Department of State Lands is responsible for issuing licenses for the harvesting of wild seaweed that are valid for up to 30 years.

California

You can obtain a permit from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to harvest wild seaweed.

Hawai’i

The Hawai’i Department of Land and Natural Resources, Division of Aquatic Resources is the lead agency within the state for issuance of permits and licenses for all forms of aquacultural businesses.

How to harvest seaweed SEA LETTUCE Ulva lactuca
Pictured: SEA LETTUCE Ulva lactuca

How is Seaweed Harvested: Essential Tools

Once you have obtained the proper permits or licenses for harvesting wild seaweed in your state, you will need to pick up the right tools for the job.

Scissors or Small Knife

You will need either a sharp pair of scissors or a small knife to make clean cuts. As a general rule, you will want to cut the seaweed from the holdfast, which is the actual structure of the plant that attaches it to the rocks. By cutting the edible portion off from the holdfast, you allow the plant to continue to regrow season after season.

Mesh Bags

Although it is possible to use plastic bags, it is always best to carry mesh bags to store the harvested seaweed. A good quality mesh bag will allow the water to drain out and air to circulate in and around the seaweed while you are harvesting. This allows the seaweed to stay fresh, and collect a larger harvest.

Suitable Footwear

When you are harvesting wild seaweed it is important to wear sturdy waterproof shoes or boots. As seaweed grows along rocky coastal shorelines, you will need to ensure that you have a good pair of waterproof shoes or boots that will provide you with ample traction over slippery terrain.

How is Seaweed Harvested: Instructions

Once you have picked out the perfect location for collecting seaweed and have your tools ready, it’s time to head out to the shoreline to start your small harvest.

Selective Cutting to Ensure Plant Regrowth

Using your sharp scissors or knife, you will want to carefully sniff the seaweed blades away from the holdfast. To ensure that the harvest is sustainable, we need to leave the holdfast attached to the rock so that the seaweed can continue to regrow and sustain its local population.

Timing Harvests for Low Tides & Optimal Seaweed Quality

You will also want to plan your harvest accordingly. Although it is possible to wear a pair of waders and go out into chest-high water to harvest seaweed, it is best to wait until the lowest tides of the month as this will expose the seaweed and make it easier to access. You will also be able to see the seaweed which allows you to select the plants that appear to be healthier and more vibrant.

Rotate Seaweed Harvesting Sites

Always make sure that you never overharvest from the same area time and time again. Rotate your harvesting sites to allow the seaweed plenty of time to repopulate.

How is seaweed harvested - go during low tide

How is Seaweed Harvested: Cleaning & Storing Your Bounty

Once you have harvested all of the seaweed, it is important that you properly clean and store it.

Removing Debris & Rinsing

Start by thoroughly rinsing out the harvested seaweed in clean seawater to remove any sand, debris, or excess salt.

How to Store the Fresh Seaweed

From there, you will want to store your freshly harvested seaweed in a cool, damp location. You may also opt to refrigerate your freshly harvested seaweed in a breathable container until it is time to use. Always make sure to follow proper cleaning and storage processes to maintain the quality and freshness of your seaweed.

Utilizing Wild Seaweed

Seaweed is not just for eating, as there are many different ways to use your harvested seaweed around the home.

Drying for Long-Term Storage

You can dry your harvested seaweed for long-term storage. There are several different ways in which to properly dry your seaweed, so it is important to take your time to determine the best method for your particular species or needs.

Making Seaweed Capsules or Powder

As a general rule, seaweed is always dried for long-term storage, and once it has been dried out it can be used in many different ways. You can grind down the seaweed into powder form, to make capsules or to simply incorporate them into smoothies or other dishes.

Natural Skincare & Soap Making

You may also want to use powdered seaweed to make any number of homemade skincare products including soaps. Soap may also be made from fresh seaweed, depending on the results you are seeking with the final product.