By Julie Watson
Associated Press 

Volunteers smash purple sea urchins to save California kelp forests

 

February 28, 2024

Ralph Pace / The Nature Conservancy via AP

Josh Russo smashes urchins at Van Damme State Beach, near Caspar, California, in this 2019 photo. From urchin crushing to lab-grown kelp, efforts to save California's kelp forests show promise.

CASPAR BEACH, Calif. - A welding hammer strapped to her wrist, Joy Hollenback slipped on blue fins and swam into the churning, chilly Pacific surf one fall morning to do her part to save Northern California's vanishing kelp forests.

Hollenback dove into the murky depths toward the seafloor. There, she spotted her target: voracious, kelp-devouring purple urchins.

Within seconds she smashed 20 to smithereens. "If you're angry, it's a cathartic way to get it all out," Hollenback joked. "It's ecologically sanctioned mayhem."

The veterinarian who lives in Berkeley, California, is part of a crew...



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