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Posted by Max Bottomtime on April 09, 2016 at 10:50:27:

The damage to the nearshore coastal kelp forests in the northern part of the state has now reached the state of despair. A combination of factors including heat, a virus, and an explosion of herbivores may be creating a sea change in the nearshore ecosystems in Northern California. For two years now, Bull kelp has not grown. Kelp coverage on the winter overflights was virtually zero. The abalone were already starving by the end of last summer but they did not get much relief because of the winter there was very little, if any, significant growth of bull kelp. In fact, there is some evidence that the generally durable southern Palm kelp is also suffering greatly. A contagion which causes Starfish Wasting Disease has also affected virtually the entire coast of California and has killed almost all of our starfish.

What you will see are pictures of full-grown abalone climbing bare bull kelp stocks seeking food because they are starving. Divers have seen large numbers of small abalone out and are mistaking this for evidence of abundance however it is believed that these are smaller abalone which are generally cryptic, hidden in deep crevices, who are out looking for food because they are starving. There is virtually no drift kelp to feed them. And to top it off large areas of the North coast are now seeing an explosion of purple urchins. The same urchins that form the giant barrens here in Southern California. They compete with the Red urchin and the abalone since they also feed on kelp. But the conditions in the North coast appear to be unusually favorable and the purple urchin hordes are growing at prodigious rates.

Events such as these do not respect Marine protected area boundaries. They decimate everything. If you been in the water lately you can see how much it is affected life in Southern California. Northern California has generally fewer serious adverse conditions but it is pretty clear by reports of divers at the Northern California nearshore is having a particularly difficult time over the last two years. What is unknown is whether the shift in the ecology will become semipermanent and it will be interesting to see when, or if, the Northern California nearshore kelp forest recover their previous vitality.

The information below comes from the Department of Fish and Wildlife and I encourage interested divers to read it.

Best regards

Stephen G Benavides
Recreational Advisory Abalone Committee, Southern Representative

Hello All,

If you recall from the past two RAAC meetings you have heard presentations from Laura and Cynthia regarding broad ecosystem changes that we have been observing (ie. The Perfect Storm) that may have profound impacts to the kelp resource and the abalone and sea urchin fisheries on the north coast. We just wanted to direct your attention to two recent efforts to inform a broader audience of this important story.

* We created a blog post https://cdfwmarine.wordpress.com/2016/03/30/perfect-storm-decimates-kelp/
* We posted Cynthia's video presentation to the FGC in February on our web page: https://www.wildlife.ca.gov/Conservation/Marine/Invertebrates/Abalone#321561192-abalone-videos

Please distribute as you see fit.

Ian Taniguchi, Senior Environmental Scientist
Marine Region
California Department of Fish and Wildlife
4665 Lampson Ave. Suite C
Los Alamitos, CA. 90720
Ian.Taniguchi at wildlife.ca.gov
Office: (562)342-7182

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