The rules for commercial seaweed harvesting from some North Island beaches are being relaxed.
At present there are limited areas from which harvesters are permitted to take seaweed, and the change is aimed at giving them more access to the coastlines of Taranaki, Wairarapa and Northland.
The Fisheries Ministry, which is overseeing the expansion, was lobbied by commercial operators who want more flexibility in sourcing seaweed.
The ministry's inshore fisheries manager, Leigh Mitchell, says ecologically sensitive areas have been kept closed, and potentially threatening harvests in the new zones will be investigated.
But Forest and Bird believes commercial exploitation could strip beaches of seaweed.
Spokesperson Kirstie Knowles says the onus should be on the commercial harvester to prove that there is no impact on the wider environmental ecosystem before operations expand.