Recent events leading to...

Kelp forests in Monterey County becoming  urchin barrens. Reef structures previously covered in algae, are grazed down to bare rock from the numerous purple urchins (S.purpuratus). In recent years, we experienced warmer sea temperatures and multiple Seastar species waste away from a disease. These combined factors leave the urchins population unchecked. Urchin barrens may persist for decades until a perturbance causes the system to move, returning the kelp to a more dominant and stable state. 

How much of our reef is a barren?


Reef Check Surveys


Of the 16 sites that Reef Check surveys in Monterey and Carmel Bays; 9 of them are now urchin barrens.  The trend is towards more urchins at more sites. 




Reef Check has obtained a Special Collection Permit from CDFW to  study if culling urchins in varying amounts will result in the return to a giant kelp forest.  The monitoring and culling of urchins is open to Reef Check Certified divers.  The results of the study will inform a larger effort to clear large areas of McAbee Beach, Lovers Cove, and Coral Street.  We are also seeking to increase the bag limit of purple urchins at Del Monte Beach to remove urchins and restore kelp with recreational divers holding fishing licenses.


Current Projects:

Drone Surveys

Urchin Manipulation Study at Lovers #3

Urchin Barren Assessment

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Giant Giant Kelp Restoration Project

400 Camino Aguajito, Monterey, California 93940, United States

(408) 206-0721

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