Friday August 19, 2022

Public News Service

The kelp forests off the Mendocino coast are starting to recover with improved environmental conditions, thanks to a conservation program which sent divers to remove 45,000 pounds of purple sea urchins.

The urchins have devastated the once massive bull kelp forests, leaving a lifeless barren behind.

Dan Abbott, kelp forest program director for the Reef Check Foundation, said it is the first large-scale kelp-restoration project of its kind in northern California.

“It’s not back to where it was, say pre-2015,” Abbott acknowledged. “It’s still only about 20% of the historical average. But again, it’s only like a year and a half in. And it’s a very encouraging result.”

The purple sea-urchin population has exploded in the last eight years or so, partially because a wasting disease has decimated their chief predator, the sea star. In addition, the area has no sea otters to keep the urchins in check, because the otters were hunted to extinction in the early 1900s.

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