A woven basket full of small purple urchins with a metal measuring device on top of them
More than 95 percent of California’s coastal kelp forests have been killed by an explosion of purple sea urchins. Commercial divers like Byron Koehler and Gary Trumper have been hired to help control the purple urchin population. Photo Credit: Dexter Hake for The New York Times

‘Zombie’ Urchins Are Destroying Kelp Forests. Can’t We Just Eat Them?

From the New York Times

“This is actually better than sustainable, because the more you fish it, the better off the kelp forest will be. This is a restorative seafood product.”

-Laura Rogers-Bennett, a research associate at the University of California, Davis and a scientist at the California Department of Fish and Wildlife

Today, more than 95 percent of California’s coastal kelp are gone, devoured by a population explosion of purple sea urchins in the past seven years. This proliferation has led to dead zones known as “urchin barrens,” where carpets of urchins can be seen for miles. One such barren encompasses 400 miles of coastline from Marin County to the Oregon border.

Last year, Ms. Rogers-Bennett’s team at U.C. Davis collaborated with a company called Urchinomics, which had been working on similar problems in Norway and Japan. Together, along with the Nature Conservancy, they worked to determine whether their technologies were transferable to California.

Read more on nytimes.com

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