A new project in Hawaii is releasing a massive amount of sea urchins into the sea to help the coral reef in Kāne‘ohe Bay that is being slowly smothered by an invasive seaweed species.
The project is the culmination of years of research among the state Aquatic Resources division, The Nature Conservancy and University of Hawaii. The urchins have been raised in a hatchery and fed a diet of native seaweed. The project is actually one of the first in the world to raise native sea urchins in captivity. The first 1,000 were released by the scientists last weekend, with another 25,000 to be released each month. Some urchins will inevitably be eaten by fish and octopus.
The hope is that the urchins will feed on the seaweed, specifically two species of seaweed algae called Kappaphycus alvarezii and K. striatum, to a degree that keeps the invasive species in check. The researchers say there isn't a concern for an over-population of urchins since the animals are easy to herd and relocate, and with monitoring, should stay under control.
Images via The Nature Conservancy
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