Bull Kelp

January 2024
bull kelp and kayaking

Underwater Forests of BC

Kayaking through the Pacific Ocean you may notice a long winding shape floating in the water. Our guides are commonly asked what this “snake-like” object is. Bull kelp, also scientifically known as Nereocystis luetkeana, is a fascinating species of seaweed that thrives in the cold, nutrient-rich waters of the North Pacific Ocean. With its towering presence and unique characteristics, bull kelp plays a vital role in marine ecosystems and offers a myriad of benefits to both humans and the environment.

One of the most striking features of bull kelp is its impressive size. Growing up to 100 feet in length, it forms dense underwater forests that provide shelter and protection for a diverse range of marine life. Bull kelp is also one of the fastest-growing organisms in the world, growing up to 10 inches per day! These underwater kelp forests serve as nurseries for young fish, providing them with a safe haven to grow and thrive.

Beyond its ecological significance, bull kelp also offers numerous benefits to humans. Historically, Indigenous coastal communities have utilized bull kelp for its nutritional and medicinal properties. Rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, it is a valuable source of nutrition and has been incorporated into traditional diets for centuries. Organizations such as Sea Forest seed and harvest kelp to create snacks and other food products, and the Indigenous-owned company Keltsmaht Kelp uses kelp to create probiotic products that are great for crops and at-home gardening.

In addition to its nutritional value, bull kelp has gained attention for its potential as a sustainable resource. Its long, flexible stalks have been used in the production of various products, including ropes, fertilizers, and even biofuels. However, like many marine species, bull kelp faces threats from human activities and climate change. Pollution, habitat destruction, and rising ocean temperatures pose significant challenges to the survival of these underwater forests. It is crucial that we take proactive measures to protect and conserve bull kelp and its associated ecosystems.

Efforts are underway to establish marine protected areas and promote sustainable harvesting practices to ensure the long-term survival of bull kelp. By raising awareness about the importance of this remarkable species, we can inspire action and foster a greater appreciation for the delicate balance of our oceans.

Bull kelp is a remarkable underwater wonder that deserves our attention and protection. Its towering presence, ecological significance, and potential as a sustainable resource make it a species worth celebrating!