Convening state government to explore opportunities to advance sustainable seaweed farming in California

Project Overview

The potential benefits of both land-based and open water-based seaweed farming are numerous, including carbon capture and local amelioration of ocean acidification, food security, and supporting livelihoods of coastal communities. Interest and investment in developing science and technology for seaweed farming as a carbon dioxide removal (CDR) pathway is rapidly expanding, prompting the need to also consider broader risks and costs associated with seaweed aquaculture. At the same time, California’s regulatory and permitting landscape can be a significant barrier to expansion of this sector, in addition to the challenges of incorporating emerging science, and building new markets in the state for potential end uses like biofuels.
Beginning in May 2022, this initiative aims to:

  • Explore opportunities for seaweed farming to contribute to California’s habitat, climate, and blue economy goals
  • Discuss best available science on the co-benefits and uses of kelp and other seaweeds and identify research needs for California
  • Explore barriers and opportunities for advancing responsible and scalable seaweed farming in California from a management a regulatory perspective

Our intent is that these discussions can illuminate strategic investments in research and pathways for the development of a responsible, sustainable aquaculture program in California that maximizes the many co-benefits offered by seaweed farming, while being attentive to social, economic and ethical risks.

Identifying Needs From California’s Regulatory and Management Communities

In Fall 2022, OST brought together California’s regulatory and permitting agencies to understand needs around the state’s aquaculture program and translate needs and insights to the legislature. Our work aimed to be complementary to ongoing efforts, with the intent of helping advance state priorities and bring more resources to support California’s aquaculture program.

We worked closely with the Joint Committee on Fisheries & Aquaculture to support the panel “All Hands on Deck; Saving Kelp in California” at their 49th Annual Zeke Grader Fisheries Forum. Former Senior Science Officer Hayley Carter provided testimony on the panel, sharing insights from our engagement with regulatory and permitting agencies. This included key messages in alignment with Statewide Guiding Principles on Aquaculture, such as supporting the potential of restorative aquaculture in California and strengthening capacity needs at agencies to advance low trophic operations, such as seaweed farming.

Watch Hayley’s testimony at 49th Fisheries Forum here.

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