A Visit to the SeaTrees Kelp Forest: Palos Verdes, California

It's always a good day when you're on the water, and the rainy, blustery March weather just added to the experience when we visited the kelp restoration project with our partners, The Bay Foundation's Tom Ford and Heather Burdick.

The purpose of the trip? See how the project operates, visit the patch of kelp forest being restored by the SeaTrees community of supporters, and share the stoke with our SeaTrees community.

Leaving the dock in San Pedro, passing by the commercial fishing fleet - Tom and Heather remind us that some of those boats are owned and operated by the urchin divers who clear the purple urchin barrens, allowing the kelp to re-grow. According to our guides, urchin divers are beyond happy to restore kelp forests as it also helps to restore red urchins, which can only live in a healthy kelp forest.  Purple urchins can form urchin barrens, whereas red urchins are harvested for sushi. 


We left San Pedro breakwater and headed west toward Palos Verdes, and it didn't take more than 10 minutes before we saw a gray whale.  March is right in the middle of their annual migration back to the feeding grounds of the North Pacific.  Summer is blue whale season, and we'll be looking for a reason to get back out there.  

Our first stop was at Honeymoon Cove, which was one of the first areas of Palos Verdes to have kelp restored. It's truly an impressive spot, with a large extent of kelp forest, that was, until recently, open ocean.

The goal for this stop - collect kelp, aka "abalone food". The Bay Foundation is raising juvenile abalone in their lab, to be introduced to the restored kelp forests.  Abalone compete with urchins for the same food, and increases the resilience of the ecosystem from future purple urchin proliferation. 


Listen to Tom talk about the role abalone play to increase ecosystem resilience.

Next up was a trip to White Point, where the kelp forests are currently being restored.  This is where the SeaTrees "patch" of kelp forest restoration is under-way.  Along the way, we had to dodge some gray whales feeding off Pt. Vincente.  

Here's a photo of the White Point area, showing a clear ocean - aka no kelp on the surface. Just underneath are purple urchin barrens.

Heather then explains where the SeaTrees patch is located:

She also explains how the urchin clearing process works.  The Bay Foundation scientists survey the barrens, find the best candidate spots, and schedule urchin fishermen to clear the barrens. 

After this, we it was time to head back to port and visit the abalone lab. This is something we were excited to visit because we hadn't seen a live abalone in Southern California since the 1980s.  There are very few abalone left in the wild right now, and their numbers are diminishing with the decline of the kelp forests. 

Here's Heather feeding the juvenile abalone with the kelp harvested from Golden Cove.

We're stoked to be able to work with the ecosystem heroes like the Bay Foundation and support their work through SeaTrees - who wouldn't be? This is the whole point of SeaTrees, to find the best ecosystem restoration projects, connect them to a global audience, and help them expand their impact.