Sea Urchins Battle Invasive Algae

Beautiful Kaneohe Bay… a windward-side gem that attracts fishermen, tourists and all kinds of marine life to its sandy shores. It’s hard to tell from the outside, but below its surface, a war with invasive algae is taking place.

That’s where these little guys come in – thousands of baby sea urchins have been released into the battle field of reef. They feed on the “smothering seaweed,” as the alien species has been nicknamed, and therefore, help to control the invasion.

The state actually owns a hatchery, where thousands upon thousands of urchins have been raised. They’re released into the bay once they grow to about 15 millimeters. According to a Star-Advertiser article, the state hopes to release at least 10,000 to 25,000 juvenile urchins every month.

Why go through all the hassle? Kaneohe Bay is a nursery for all kinds of marine life; as the only barrier reef system in the United States, the bay provides shelter for breeding fish and replenishing surrounding areas of aquatic life.

The urchins have, no doubt, been doing great things for the underwater ecosystem; just be careful when visiting the bay. The urchins have sharp spines that would really hurt if you stepped on them. Luckily, you probably won’t be doing too much walking and wading along these waters, since the bay is used more for fishing or boating. It is not a bay for swimming or surfing.

Mahalo to the team for their hard work and continued dedication to getting the invasive algae situation under control!

Photos Courtesy: The Nature Conservancy Hawaii Program

Posted by: Bruce Fisher