Aquatic Plant Harvesting

The goal of British Columbia’s aquatic plant management strategy is to take advantage of the economic benefits of aquatic plants while not compromising the marine environment.  More than 600 species of aquatic plants can be found along the coast, including the greatest diversity of kelps found anywhere in the world.

Aquatic plants are plants that grow in either salt or fresh water. They can be either alive or detached (for example, beach-cast seaweed).

In addition to a food source, aquatic plants are used for herbal remedies, cosmetics and medical use, and as a fertilizer for gardens. Aquatic plant harvesting should be done sustainably and responsibly and respect First Nation’s traditions and lands.

aquatic plants underwater

Individuals and businesses commercially harvesting aquatic plants must be licensed. Currently, all aquatic plant harvesting in British Columbia is done by hand. Individuals harvesting for their own personal use (for example, collecting detached seaweed off the beach for use in their own garden, etc.) do not require a licence.

The provincial requirements vary depending on whether the aquatic plant harvested is wild or cultured. Be aware of federal fishery requirements for the harvest of aquatic plants associated with the spawn-on-kelp fishery.

Wild Aquatic Plants

Licensing

A harvesting licence is required to commercially harvest wild aquatic plants in British Columbia. The licence specifies the species, quota, method of harvest, harvest duration and area of harvest. While most harvesting licences are for live aquatic plants, there is an experimental commercial harvest of beach-cast aquatic plants (detached seaweed that is washed up on the shore) on the east coast of Vancouver Island.

To start the licensing process:

Applications and fees must be received by October 1 in any given year in order to be considered for a harvesting licence in the following year. This allows sufficient time for review of the application and required First Nations consultations.

Once licensed, follow the harvesting of aquatic plant harvesting requirements.

Within 10 days of completion of your harvest, complete and submit a Harvest Log / Royalty Return form along with your royalty payment. Royalties are based on the type and amount of aquatic plants harvested.

All wild aquatic plants harvested for commercial purposes must be processed at a licensed processing plant.

Cultured Seaweed

In order to grow your own seaweed in the ocean you’ll need:

Licensing

A harvesting licence is not required to commercially harvest cultured seaweed in British Columbia.

All cultured seaweed must be processed at a licensed processing plant.