Where's the Wakame?

Latest update July 24, 2019 Started on October 17, 2018
sea

A globally invasive seaweed, called Wakame or "Undaria pinnatifida", has recently been spotted in a marine protected area at Anacapa Island off the coast of southern California. It was likely spread there by hitchhiking on a local boat residing in one of three nearby harbors. To prevent another introduction event from occurring, it is important to learn where in these harbors the invasive seaweed is growing. We propose to use a Trident ROV to survey all the marinas in three harbors closest to Anacapa Island to identify these hotspots and help focus outreach and control efforts.

October 17, 2018
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In The Field

Now that the many of the MPA Collaborative Networks have received their Tridents® as part of the S.E.E. Initiative, it's time to get everyone worked up on ROV operations! CA Sea Grant state fellow Pike Spector was asked to attend one such training with the Mendocino MPAC ROV training in Fort Bragg, California.


Not only did this facilitate engagement with stakeholders on the North Coast, it bolstered National Marine Sanctuary presence in a remote part of California! Representatives from local agencies (e.g. California State Parks) and nonprofits (e.g. Noyo Center and CA Reef Check) spent the day learning how to operate and maintain the small ROVs, and discussed applications for use and engagement.

Through conversations with stakeholders, partners, and staff from the MPACN and Sofar, plans are in development to use Tridents® coast-wide to broadcast “live dives” from within California’s National Marine Sanctuaries.

Photo credits: Zack Johnson (Sofar), Nicole Palma (MPACN), Pike Spector (CINMS)

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Undaria alert!


On April 19th, 2019 CINMS staff participated on an outreach and education cruise aboard the sanctuary's r/v Shearwater with Santa Barbara City College field methods course to Prisoners Harbor, Santa Cruz Island.

During the cruise, students got a chance to identify plankton from a plankton tow, and survey protected eelgrass meadows with a Trident ROV. During review of the footage, several large Undaria individuals were identified via footage captured by the Trident and were subsequently confirmed by in-house algal expert Dr. Lindsay Marks.

CINMS staff alerted Channel Islands National Park personnel, who are collaborators on Undaria containment initiatives in the park and sanctuary. Undaria was first seen on Anacapa in 2016; this marks the first time Undaria has been identified on Santa Cruz Island. Stay tuned for more updates!

Photo caption 1-3: Positive ID of Undaria in an eelgrass meadow Photo caption 4: Students from SBCC identify plankton and explore the seagrass meadows in the r/v Shearwater's dry lab. Photo by Boxuan Zhan

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Kristen Hislop of the Environmental Defense Center and Lindsay Marks of NOAA Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary teamed up with the Santa Barbara Sea Center (Ed Sweeny, Jose Lobato, Owen Duncan) to survey for invasive algae in Santa Barbara Harbor.


It’s important to know where in the harbors invasive species are growing so that we can limit their spread by boat to the open coast. That way, we can also raise awareness about these “hotspots”. Traditionally, surveys are done by SCUBA divers, but this is extremely expensive and time consuming. Not mention how challenging diving in a harbor can be!

The use of an ROV represents an alternative method to survey for invasive species in harbors, and we were thrilled at the prospect of getting a chance to "fly" one! We learned that it takes some practice to learn to control the ROV in the harbor, but that it can indeed be used to detect invasive species and help guide outreach and control efforts to prevent their spread.

While identifying invasive species isn't exactly heartwarming, we had a blast exploring the harbor from the comfort of the dock.

Have you spotted Undaria in California's waters? Use these pictures to help identify it and let us know!

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Expedition Background

Invasive species are one of the greatest drivers of biodiversity loss worldwide, causing ecological and economic harm to native biological communities and the humans who depend on them. Marine invasive species are commonly found in harbors, where they are introduced by ships coming from other places by growing on vessel hulls or in ballast water. But these harbor-dwelling species can be spread to open coastlines if they are not carefully monitored and controlled. One invasive seaweed, called Wakame or "Undaria pinnatifida", has recently been spotted in a marine protected area at Anacapa Island off the coast of southern California. It was likely spread there by hitchhiking on a local boat residing in one of three nearby harbors. To prevent another introduction event from occurring, it is important to learn where in these harbors the invasive seaweed is growing so that we can warn harbormasters and boat operators in these "hotspots" to check and clean their hulls and slips, and remove the invasive seaweed if it is found. We propose to use a Trident ROV to survey all the marinas in three harbors closest to Anacapa Island (i.e., Santa Barbara Island, Channel Islands Harbor, and Ventura Harbor) to identify these hotspots and help focus outreach and control efforts.

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Great! Looking forward to following along!

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