Sea urchins released to battle invasive Kaneohe seaweed

HONOLULU —Department of Land and Natural Resources is taking new steps to battle the invasive seaweeds at Kaneohe Bay.

Officials say the seaweed is threatening to smother coral patch reefs in the area. Aquatic Invasive Species team divers have placed another 6,000 hatchery-raised sea urchins on selected reefs to battle the seaweed.

“This batch brings our total to more than 250,000 hatchery reared urchins released so far,” said Brian Neilson, DLNR aquatic invasive species coordinator. As a result of the urchins, “we are seeing a reduction of invasive alien seaweeds in the targeted areas.”

Alien invasive seaweed has plagued Kaneohe Bay for more than 30 years. In 2005 the DLNR, The Nature Conservancy, and the University of Hawaii developed a two-tier approach to the problem.

First they removed the algae and then placed native sea urchins on the cleared reef patches to eat and keep down the remaining seaweed.

DLNR raised the sea urchins in hatcheries at the Department’s Anuenue Fisheries Research Center on Sand Island.

“These native, herbivorous urchins maintain the areas like ocean gardeners or little goats of the sea. They keep the seaweed in check and give the corals a chance to recover,” said David Cohen, DLNR sea urchin hatchery manager.

DLNR established the sea urchin hatchery at AFRC in 2009. The first release of urchins was conducted early in 2011.

 

View original article at: Sea urchins released to battle invasive Kaneohe seaweed

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