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Diving the Sargassum Forest

Published on 2016-03-27 23:36:17

It's been about 6 months since my last dive in Laguna Beach. The conditions have been terrible, thanks to El Niņo which has warmed up the Pacific last year and brought all kind of weird creatures to our coasts (turtle, seahorses, sharks...), none of which I have seen, because, well, it also brought up high surf and rains preventing anyone from going in the water.

As a side effect of higher water temperatures, the devil weed, sargassum horneri has been taking over where kelp used to grow (our giant kelp does not like warmer waters). Most dive reports I've read indicated a tremendous progression, especially on our coasts where it was scarce last year. Catalina was the first one to be invaded back in 2005, and despite calls from the diving community, the Department of Fish & Games, the governmental body that regulates our territorial waters, did absolutely nothing to prevent the spread.

So I wanted to see it for myself, and boy, I did see. All the effort of kelp restoration undertaken over the last 10 years, from kelp patch planting to urchin barren removals, that had brought back kelp forests to Laguna Beach seem long gone. Instead, we have a forest of Sargassum. At Diver's Cove, there were still a few giant kelps here and there, but sargassum was all over, even in between kelp holddfasts.

The worst part of all that, is that due to our Marine Protected Area status, removing sargassum is illegal and anyone doing that risks a hefty fine.

One thing I noticed while diving Diver's is the absence of Garibaldis, our State Fish. This is the time of the year when they usually mate, preparing their nests by eating everything on their rocks except red algae. The problem is, all rocks are covered in sargassum so I wonder if Mr Garibaldi will find a spot to breed. Now, that may be our way through the thick skulls of the legislature... The State Fish may be in danger and may even leave the state! So, I'm going to write to my representative and ask them to take action. Let's mobilize all divers around and harvest the bloody weed. Now is the right time, it can't spawn! Maybe that'll give the kelp a fighting chance to grow back!

Photowise, that dive sucked. I forgot my diffuser and the viz was awful. Plus, the only thing around is, as you know by now, sargassum.


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