California Kelp Forest

posted Jan 2, 2012, 7:49 PM by Jason Stanley   [ updated Jan 2, 2012, 7:49 PM by Jacqui Stanley ]

California Kelp Forest -  ( Macrocystis pyrifera)

China Hat

San Clemente Island


It is November, and we are far from the cold, damp winter weather on the mainland and our liveaboard dive boat is moored at China Hat, off San Clemente Island. 

We wake up to see the sun shining on a beautiful, calm sea. The kelp canopy is floating on the surface and we see schools of mackerel gliding through the huge forest. Kelp are giant algae that reach up to 120 feet in height and support diverse ecosytems.

We get in and drift through this amazing world. Above us, the sun is sparkling and twinkling through the kelp. Every now and then, Garibaldi fish rush out to warn us that this is their home and we are being watched! There is almost no current and inside the kelp forest, the water is clear. It is so clear that it is difficult to remember that we are underwater!  I swim out to the edge of the canopy to find the visibility beyond the forest is not so great. I return to the great green cathedral. Under a ledge, crayfish peer out and juvenile Garibaldi swim around Palm kelp holdfasts.

It is magnificent! The kelp forest is at least 80 feet tall and the top of the canopy lies lazily on the surface, the fabulous yellow ochre fronds glistening in the sunshine. 

On board, we read that this magnificent kelp forest is at risk from over-fishing. When the predator species, such as rockfish, at the top of the food chain are removed, then the species that they normally eat, such as snails and barnacles, begin to increase in number. Many of these are herbivores that eat kelp. When their numbers increase, they decrease the amount of kelp, in turn changing how kelp forests look and the type of species that are associated with the kelp forest.

We all feel such privilege to see this huge, healthy forest beneath the sea. Just swimming through the kelp, makes us all feel healthy and alive. We commit to being better educated and help to preserve and protect this magnificent green world.