Monday January 9, 2023

Monterey Herald

On a recent Saturday morning, scuba divers Keith Rootsaert and Dan Schwartz splashed into the ocean just east of Old Fisherman’s Wharf, the chilly water swallowing the sounds of Monterey Bay as they descended. Upon reaching the seabed, each diver grabbed a spiky purple sea urchin, braced it against a rock and pulverized its center with a welding hammer — all in the name of saving giant kelp.

The two divers needed to ensure the urchins were dead, but they didn’t have time to waste. Their goal was to kill hundreds of urchins apiece before the hourlong dive was over.

“Urchin culling” is an intervention — not a massacre. The intervention is necessary because the urchins are devouring the kelp.

Rootsaert describes kelp forests as the marine equivalent of California’s redwood forests. “If the redwood forests were on fire, people would be working tirelessly to save them,” he said. “The kelp forests need saving, but because they are out of sight in the ocean it’s harder to get people to care.”

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