Re: Edina Johnston’s letter re the removal of dead beach seaweed (Gardeners may unknowingly be damaging the marine environment by removing seaweed, Dec. 9 Record)
In expressing her opinion, Ms. Johnston seems to be depending on a document prepared by a group of researchers from UVic.
From my cursory review of the document, it seems that it is primarily concerned with the adverse effects of person-made structures such as concrete retaining walls and other protective structures built adjacent to the beach, on the nature of the sand and gravel on the adjacent beach. The natural sand and small gravel particles there before the structures were installed apparently are crucial to the spawning and development of forage fish like the Pacific sand lance and surf smelts which are important forage fish in the food chain, with the orcas being at the top of it. However, I could find nowhere in it that referred to hand removal of dead seaweed from the beach in the document being prohibited.
To try to get to the bottom of this issue, I called the Nanaimo biological station for information and the person there put me onto a document (bit.ly/2KwKA7a) produced by the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources. That document contained the following:
“Individuals harvesting for their own personal use, and collecting amounts of 100 kg or less, do not require a licence; however, all aquatic plant harvest should minimize impacts to aquatic plants and to the environment. All harvesting must be done by hand (no raking) and if harvesting occurs on the foreshore, the substrate should not be disturbed or exposed….”
So, if done without disturbing the substrate (the sand and gravel under the dead seaweed), it is perfectly legitimate for people to harvest up to 100kg of dead seaweed from the beach for their own use and no licence is required. It must be done by hand and to harvest the seaweed, the sand layer under it must not be disturbed.