For the past two years volunteer recreational scuba divers organized by the Giant Giant Kelp Restoration Project (G2KR) have been culling sea urchins at a demonstration site in Monterey in an effort to restore the area’s once lush kelp forests. The effort has been monitored by Reef Check using citizen science divers in partnership with G2KR, California Department of Fish & Wildlife, Ocean Protection Council, and the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.

According to the latest Reef Check data, urchin densities dropped from over 800 urchins per 100m2 in April of 2021 to less than 100 urchins per 100m2 by June of 2022. The density of giant kelp increased roughly five fold from 33 stipes per 100m2 in April of 2021 to 150 per 100m2 in September of 2022. In a nearby control area, in which urchins were not removed, no noticeable change was observed. 

Purple sea urchins are native species of California’s kelp forests, but following the loss of kelp during the 2015/16 Marine Heatwave and the loss of the sunflower seastar, a key urchin predator, their populations have dramatically increased. These voracious herbivores are able to devour kelp and turn lush kelp forest into “urchin barrens”, areas that contain urchins, bare rock, and a much lower abundance and diversity of the myriad species that inhabit kelp forests. 

In early 2021 the California Fish & Game Commission enacted a rule change allowing the unlimited take of sea urchins at Tankers Reef in Monterey, located just east of the commercial pier and offshore of Del Monte beach. Since that time, trained recreational divers with G2KR have worked in that area culling urchins by smashing them with hammers. 

Urchin density was dramatically reduced by the fall of 2021, but kelp didn’t start growing until the start of the spring 2022 growing season. Over the summer Reef Check divers have continued to observe increases in kelp. Reef Check staff and volunteers will continue to conduct ongoing monitoring to assess the success and health of the reef.

Bid with purpose! Reef Check’s “Bid for the Oceans” online auction fundraiser begins November 2 and will end November 11 at https://www.32auctions.com/bidfortheoceans2022. Proceeds will provide critical funds for Reef Check’s conservation and monitoring programs of tropical coral reefs and temperate kelp forests, as well as critical restoration efforts across California. Every purchase helps further our mission to save reefs worldwide.

By Reef Check Malaysia

Volunteers in Gaya Island, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah

It has been a busy quarter for our team in Malaysia. However, the highlight of our work this quarter has to be the International Coastal Clean-up (ICC) Day 2022. After the pandemic, this year our ICC is back on the beaches. 

The official ICC day for Malaysia is September 10; however, ICC went on throughout the month of September. Reef Check Malaysia is the official organizer of ICC in Malaysia and has been so for the past few years.

In all, 9,316 volunteers joined the campaign with 9,252 volunteers cleaning up on land and 64 divers doing underwater cleanups. A total of 25,514 kg (56,248 lbs) of trash was collected over 396 km of coastlines around Malaysia.

The top three items found were, unsurprisingly, cigarette butts at 55,100 pieces, 44,706 plastic bottles and 34,673 plastic or foam pieces smaller than 2.5 cm – also known as microplastics.

We are grateful to our main sponsor, TechnipFMC. TechnipFMC has made it their goal to support ICC this year to take greater environmental responsibility amongst the employees, particularly on proper waste management. TechnipFMC also encourages employees to contribute to the community they work and live in.

The TechnipFMC team and their families joined in this year’s ICC

The TechnipFMC team alongside their families joined in the cleanup at two beaches in Melaka and Johor. In just one day, they removed 1,405 kg (3,097 lbs) of trash!

The hashtag #ICCMY2022 was used this year to track and share everyone’s efforts on social media. Moreover, the Ocean Mall initiative was launched during this year’s event to change consumerist trends into conservation trends. Clean-up volunteers, especially divers conducting underwater clean-ups, will go “shopping” for trash and post their finds on social media using the #OceanMall and #ICCMY2022 hashtags.

Plastic bottles were the second most found item during the ICC
Underwater cleanup volunteers went “shopping” for trash for #OceanMall

Reef Check is stoked to be partnering with Waterlust! It’s a partnership that just makes sense. Waterlust makes beautiful, versatile and environmentally responsible clothing inspired by marine species and ecosystems in need of advocacy. And now when you shop using our referral link- waterlust.com/ReefCheck– we will receive a 20% commission of your total sale (excluding taxes and shipping) when you make a purchase within 14 days. Plus, Waterlust will also donate 10% of its profits to another nonprofit working on the cause your purchase represents. It’s a win-win!

If you have an unwanted vehicle taking up space, you can donate it to benefit Reef Check! This year, we are participating in Cartober- a national campaign that raises awareness around this powerful means of giving. You can participate in Cartober and support Reef Check by donating your unwanted car, truck, motorcycle, RV or boat. The process is easy and free, and we will use the proceeds to continue to protect the world’s tropical coral reefs and temperate kelp forests. Visit https://careasy.org/nonprofit/reefcheckfoundation to learn more and get started. Pick up is free and your donation is tax deductible!

Save the date! This year’s “Bid for the Oceans” online auction fundraiser will be hosted on 32auctions.com from November 2-11, 2022. Get ready to bid with purpose! Proceeds will fund Reef Check’s conservation and monitoring programs of tropical coral reefs and temperate kelp forests, as well as critical restoration efforts across California. If you would like to donate an item to the auction, please fill out our donation form. Every purchase helps further our mission to save reefs worldwide.