Help the Kelp

Latest update February 14, 2018 Started on January 11, 2018

The Noyo Center for Marine Science and its collaborators are attempting to establish kelp refuges near the few healthy stands of kelp, in hopes that the kelp will be able to recruit and regrow. Doing this means finding the most effective way to remove purple sea urchins and prevent re-invasion of the young kelp beds. This video shows a collaborator- commercial urchin diver Jon Holcombe- testing his airlift device, essentially a vacuum to help increase the efficiency of removal. The Trident drone will help the Noyo Center monitor and document the reinvasion rate of urchin and the regrowth of marine algae.

January 11, 2018
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Purple Urchin Removal -- February 2-3, 2018

This most recent video, taken by Jon Holcomb, a professional urchin diver, was taken off Caspar on the North Coast of California. The video shows a stunningly bare ocean floor where once rich stands of bull kelp thrived. Scattered across the seabed are groups of purple urchin, which Jon is removing in an effort to assist the regrowth of kelp. Two divers were involved in this removal dive, which took seven hours over two days.

One small note of hope from Jon – the purple urchins are now so weak that they cannot move far, so clearing areas of urchins and keeping them clear may indeed allow kelp spores to attach to the rocks and begin to grow, without being immediately eaten.

2018 will be a pilot year for Noyo’s Help the Kelp campaign—more divers will be enlisted to remove urchins from additional areas, and Noyo volunteers will be there to continue the measuring studies. The Trident drone will help with the monitoring and documentation of the various sites.


Typical amount of urchins removed in one diving session, about 380 pounds. (Photo: Natalie West)

Noyo volunteer, Steve Brekke-Brownell, measuring an urchin using manual calipers. One thousand urchins are measured for each session, usually by 3 teams of 3 persons: two measurers and one recorder per team. (Photo: Natalie West)

This photo was taken during a recent measuring and shows an urchin of reproductive size (50-75 mm). The gonads are smaller than would be normal in a healthy urchin