Huffman Introduces Bill to Support Coastal Communities in Kelp Forest Restoration Efforts

July 16, 2021

Huffman Introduces Bill to Support Coastal Communities in Kelp Forest Restoration Efforts

San Rafael, CA – Representative Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael), Chair of the Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Oceans, and Wildlife, introduced the Keeping Ecosystems Living and Productive (KELP) Act to support local stakeholders and partners in efforts to restore kelp forests, which have been lost at alarming rates on the North Coast.

“Healthy kelp forests play an important role in marine ecosystems, sustainable fisheries, and coastal communities. But the extensive kelp loss on the North Coast has had serious impacts on our ocean and everyone who depends on it,” said Rep. Huffman.  “Local communities are working hard to restore these vital ecosystems, and the KELP Act will direct the necessary federal resources to support these important recovery efforts.” 

The KELP Act:

  • Establishes a new NOAA grant program to fund conservation, restoration, and management projects focused on kelp forest ecosystems.
  • Grants are open to Tribes, academic researchers, members of the fishing industry, nonprofits, and state agencies.
  • Focuses on projects that address greatest relative regional kelp declines, address long term ecological or socioeconomic resilience, focus on kelp restoration efforts and prevention of large scale kelp forest loss, or are in areas that have been identified as focal recovery areas by federal and state management plans.
  • Authorizes $50 million per year for FY 2022 through FY 2026. 

In addition, Rep. Huffman successfully advocated for $500,000 to the Greater Farallones Kelp Recovery Program to be included in the FY 2022 Commerce, Justice, and Science appropriations bill. This funding will be used to restore bull kelp forest along the Sonoma and Mendocino coastlines within Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary through large-scale urchin removal, planting kelp, and community engagement. This project will partner with and compensate local divers to remove urchins from key sites already identified in the sanctuary, and collaborate with research and community partners to restore kelp.

Rep. Huffman also successfully offered the KELP Act as an amendment to the Oceans Based Climate Solutions Act during a Natural Resources Committee markup this week. The bill, including the KELP Act, was approved by the Committee. Healthy kelp forests can sequester carbon and are crucial for resilient oceans in the face of the climate crisis.

“Fort Bragg, CA is ground zero in this kelp crisis and we are running out of time to reverse the loss of our kelp forest ecosystems. Urchin barrens now blanket the entire Mendocino coastline and this bill would provide the first significant funding to support our collaborative efforts to improve the resiliency in these critical ecosystems. The importance of this funding cannot be overstated for rural fishing communities like ours,” said Sheila Semans, Executive Director, Noyo Center for Marine Science.

“Healthy kelp forests are vital to our way of life in Northern California. They provide shelter, food and forage for so many fish, seabirds and marine mammals not to mention the coastal communities, tribes and visitors who all benefit from the important ecosystem services bull kelp & giant kelp provide. The Greater Farallones Association is grateful to Congressman Jared Huffman for his leadership on this kelp bill and we are standing in strong support of it,” said Francesca Koe, Greater Farallones Association Board of Directors & Program Chair.

“Kelp forests not only provide habitat for countless fish, marine mammals, and invertebrates, but they also provide critical ecosystem services like carbon sequestration and coastline protection. Unfortunately, this once-vibrant ecosystem has all but disappeared in northern California. I thank Congressman Huffman and the co-sponsors for their leadership on this important issue,” said National Marine Sanctuary Foundation President and CEO Kris Sarri.


Kelp forests grow predominantly on the Pacific Coast, from Alaska and Canada to the waters of Baja California. Like an underwater rainforest, kelp forest ecosystems provide food and habitat for hundreds of species of fish, invertebrates, and marine mammals. Coastal communities also depend on healthy kelp forest ecosystems to protect coastlines and support sustainable fisheries.

On the North coast, more than 95% of kelp forests have been lost due to higher ocean temperatures in recent that years have limited kelp growth and due to sea star wasting disease that removed a key predator of purple sea urchins. The resulting population explosion of urchins, which are voracious kelp eaters, has led to underwater wastelands.

Text of the legislation can be found here.

Huffman was joined in the introduction by Representatives Nanette Barragán (CA-44), Ted Lieu (CA-33), Barbara Lee (CA-13), Emanuel Cleaver II (MO-05), Jimmy Panetta (CA-20), Alan Lowenthal (CA-47), Peter DeFazio (OR-04), Suzanne Bonamici (OR-01), and Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC).

This legislation is supported by Reef Check California, The Nature Conservancy, American Sportfishing Association, Monterey Bay Aquarium, Aquarium of the Pacific, Seattle Aquarium, Oregon Coast Aquarium, The Ocean Foundation, Blue Frontier, Center for the Blue Economy, Surfrider Foundation, InterTribal Sinkyone Wilderness Council, The Bay Foundation, Noyo Center for Marine Science, and National Marine Sanctuary Foundation.