Kelp Harvesting Adventure

April 20th

Rick’s Excellent Kelp Harvesting Adventure!

The Aquatic Reserve Citizen Science Committee continues to meet monthly as we develop our ecreational Kelp Harvesting and Outreach Project working side by side with the DNR. The program launches in May so we are in the process of collecting and building equipment like quadrats, tripods, scales and at meetings continue to discuss protocols for our kelp research and strategies for communicating our message of sustainable practices to our harvesters. As I have mentioned in previous newsletters there is very little precedent for this project. The good news is its exciting to be foraging new ground and the bad news is its hard to shake the feeling your designing a program in the dark.

A few weeks ago I glanced at the calendar and realized it was April 20, one of two days in the month with semi good (but not great) minus tides (-1.3 feet) so I decided to grab some of our new equipment and head down to the Aquatic eserve and try my hand at kelp harvesting. My first time as a kelp harvester, I arrived at low tide. My first stop was at Libbey d and to my surprise I saw six harvesters down at the kelp line. (common knowledge Is that no one harvests until -2 ft tide or lower which first occurs late May) I quickly donned my boots, grabbed my quadrat, scale, bucket, knife, license and hat. There was a small 1 to 2-foot swell which made it difficult to harvest the kelp within the quadrat with the boots I brought to the beach (Yes, I got my socks wet). Also, I remembered you have to add weight to your quadrat so it’s more stable in water. I harvested some Alaria and another type of algae that I later identified as feather boa. I made a mental note that the kelp line didn’t seem to extends much passed the low-tide line so calculating the total area of harvestable kelp may not be as hard as we thought.

About a half-hour after low-tide the other harvesters were done and hanging out at the bottom of the stairway to the parking lot with their booty. I walked toward the stairs with my bucket of kelp and stopped to talk. I didn’t see any blatant evidence of over harvesting. They were friendly, wanted to look in my bucket and they spoke very little to no English. They did seem to understand what I said in English. I asked them which kelp they were the most interested in and it was definitely the laria and the bull kelp (Nereocystis). I got the impression that the feather boa I had in my bucket was definitely not a desired algae. One woman spoke some English and ask me how I prepared the feather boa, she offered, in a salad? I gave her a nod and they all smiled quietly, at that point realizing that I was a novice. I got back to my car, drove up W. Beach d. and checked out the other sites. I observed no other harvesters.

Its amazing how just a little bit of information can shine so much light on our project. I feel better about how our outreach program will be received and back in my garage I have already adapted our equipment so it will be more user friendly and help us get the reliable results in our data we are aspiring too. Stay tuned, more to come.
If you are interested in attending our committee meetings everyone is welcome. Next meeting is on: May 18th at; 6:30p, at:

Coopeville United Methodist Church
608 North Main Street
Rick’s cell – (949)726-2713
Rick’s email –

There is a door on the back of the church (basement level). You will see a rock keeping the door open. Photo Apr 20, 12 57 56 PMPhoto Apr 20, 12 45 12 PMPhoto Apr 20, 12 38 42 PMPhoto Apr 20, 1 00 00 PM

May 14, 2015

Our pre-training last week went extremely well. We had biologists Betty and Leal on-site and I know I learned a heck-of-a-lot about kelp and kelp harvesters. We mainly worked on our research technique and strategize our rationale. We practiced using our quadrats, Kelp ID, setting up equipment, etc. At one point, Leal and I went over and chatted with a group of harvesters. One spoke English and they were all very forthcoming with information. The whole day was very enjoyable. As I was driving home I starting to think just how much we still have to learn about kelp and the people who harvest kelp. 

July 9, 2015

Another successful day for the Kelp Harvesting/Research/Outreach Project. There was a complete dearth of harvesters last Tuesday, not one in sight, weather was not a factor this time as it was an absolutely spectacular day on the beach. Betty and I noticed that the Alaria and Saccharina (our two most harvested kelps) looked awful, not very appetizing. The kelp had a very friable, slimy quality. At some point during the summer growing season kelp breaks down introducing nutrients back into the ecosystem. Could be we reached that point in the cycle and the harvesting season is over. We will see! We are getting so efficient getting the data for the kelp growth/abundance study that we finished early completing all the quadrats at (-1 foot) and (-2 foot) tide levels. 

July 16, 2015

I saw this article and had to pass it along. Funny, we were all munching on kelp at our data collecting site last Tues. I think bacon flavored kelp just might turn me into a serious kelp harvester! Anyway, our kelp study has concluded, to all those who worked so hard to make it a success, a hearty THANK YOU! You will me hearing from me soon about next steps in the Aquatic Reserve. Rick

Kelp Project Ends at Smith & Minor Island Aquatic Reserve
We completed our kelp study this month at the Smith and Minor Island Aquatic Reserve (SMIAR). We are still analyzing the data and I will report back to you on those results later this Fall. Looking back, one of our greatest accomplishments was the creation of this unprecedented study. There have been kelp studies over the years but none that I could find that focused only on kelp harvesting and attempted to assess impact of a specific human activity on a specific habitat. Our team created and refined from scratch all the research protocols and data sheets for both the science and social aspects of the study. Remember, this habitat nourishes forage fish, schooling fish, rears juvenal salmon, supports avian populations, invertebrates, just to mention a few. 
Also, I was really gratified by the close partnership that formed between WWS, Department of Natural Resources (DNR)  and Island County MRC. We all pulled together to accomplish a relatively difficult task by pooling our resources and expertise. I know that our program participants learned much from the expertise present supporting our project. We all learned a lot about kelp, human behavior, research techniques and communication. 
On a personal note, I know I learned the most by just showing up every few weeks and watching the kelp evolve through the spring from rapidly growing (several feet a day) — maxing out on the productivity scale… to its more humble state, last week, literally melting, decomposing — introducing important nutrients back into the ecosystem. Somehow, when I witness first hand these type of natural cycles in nature I feel more connected.
Thank you everyone who participated, Rick
More research at SMIAR coming this Fall. If your interested in getting involved or getting more information, send me an email and I will at you to that list.