Maine Seafood Guide - Seaweed

sea vegetableSea vegetable or seaweed

species description | season | status | regulatory authority |
harvest method | recreational harvest | health benefits & risks | 

buying & preparing | brands | certifications | links


Species Description
Sea vegetable (seaweed or macroalgae)

Wild and cultured.

There are over 250 species of sea vegetable (marine macroalgae or seaweed) in the Gulf of Maine. While most are technically edible, only 11 are commercially harvested; these include reddish-purple dulse (Palmaria palmata); long, golden-brown kelp (Saccharina latissima, Laminaria digitata, and Alaria esculenta); thin green sea lettuce (Ulva lactuca); and laver or nori (Porphyra umbilicalis). Rockweed (Ascophyllum nodosum) is the dominant species in the commercial harvest but is used as an ingredient in supplements and other products.


Season
Depends on individual species. Cultured sugar kelps are grown in the winter months and harvested in spring. Other kelps peak in spring to early summer.
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Status
Depends on individual species and varies locally. Rockweed beds are managed for optimal growth; plants regrow in 2-4 years with proper harvesting methods.
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Regulatory Authority
Maine Department of Marine Resources.
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Harvest Method
Sea vegetable companies harvest mostly wild plants by hand, at low tide, between April and October. Sea farmers grow seaweed in Maine coastal waters on “seeded lines” —rope with juvenile plants attached—and harvest these by hand. Rockweed, which is not consumed unprocessed but may be an ingredient in food or nutritional supplements, is harvested (cut) by hand with rakes and by mechanical harvesters.
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Recreational Harvest
Harvest for personal consumption is permitted; DMR has designated seaweed harvesting a fishery, and citizens can harvest up to 50 pounds per day for personal use under Maine law. Seaweeds should be harvested by trimming the blades from the ends of the plants, leaving the holdfast attached. Use caution in the intertidal zone: rocks are slippery and waves can be unpredictable. It's also best to avoid harvesting near sewage outfalls, storm drains, or other potential pollution sources.
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Health Benefits & Risks
Seaweed contains essential minerals and vitamins, as well as fiber, protein, and iodine. Avoid collecting seaweed growing near sewage treatment plants and other wastewater outfalls.
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Buying & Preparing
At the retail level, sea vegetables harvested or grown in Maine will be labeled appropriately. If collecting yourself, take along a field guide such as Life between the Tides.
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Companies, Brands, and Labels

Maine seaweeds can also be found in Seabelt Ale from Marshall Wharf Brewing Company, in bagels from Southside Bakery, goat cheese from North Island Creamery, and popcorn from Little Lad's.

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Certifications & Verifications
Maine Coast Sea Vegetable products are certified organic.
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Links

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species description | season | status | harvest method | recreational harvest
health benefits & risks | 
buying & preparing | brands certifications | links | featured harvester