After a Spiny Explosion, Divers Hope to Restore Recreational Abalone With the Help of Vacuums

Well, the idea doesn’t suck.

With the abalone population in peril off the Sonoma and Mendocino coasts, the diving community is going after the culprit—purple sea urchins—with the help of vacuums and hookahs.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, “The urchins are an overpopulated species that has laid waste to the struggling kelp forests that abalone and other marine wildlife need for food. In response, fans of recreational abalone diving are paying professional divers to literally vacuum up the spiny creatures—which have little commercial value—from the sea floor with a fiberglass pipe that empties into a big net.

“Diving associations, along with marine conservation and education organizations like Noyo Center for Marine Science in Fort Bragg and Get Inspired in Southern California, have raised $80,000 to fund a California Department of Fish & Wildlife project to remove purple sea urchin from select areas off the Northern California coast.

“’There’s no way we could get rid of them all,’ said Joshua Russo, a diving instructor and president of the Watermen’s Alliance, a diving and spearfishing association. ‘We’re not trying to. We’re trying to get rid of them at specific locations to allow the kelp to grow back.’”

Read more about the cause of the urchin infestation and efforts to scale it back here.

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