For years, invasive seaweed has plagued Kaneohe Bay, but marine biologists say a native sea urchin is working to clear the water.
David Cohen runs a one-of-a-kind hatchery in the country where collector urchins are raised. KHON2 got a peek inside last summer.
“We take a native sea urchin down onto the reef and the sea urchin acts like a little gardener,” Cohen explained. “It clips away at the seaweed and it makes sure that it doesn’t grow back… It grows right onto the coral here, and smothers it and just kills it out by blocking the light like that.”
In 2011, 5,000 urchins were introduced into the bay and the numbers have steadily grown since with 60,000 in 2012 and 93,000 in 2013.
Divers were out Thursday planting sea urchins onto 13 acres of patch reef.
“Today marks the day that we have produced 200,000 urchins at the hatchery, and we’re putting out our 200,000th urchin in Kaneohe Bay today,” Cohen said.
Reef restoration supervisor Jono Blodgett says the urchins are planted every other week.
“Kaneohe has been known as a coral garden for decades and decades, so a lot of this coral is habitat for fish and octopus, and the community uses it for recreational as well as sustenance,” Blodgett said. “It’s important to help keep that going for future generations.”
The program costs about $225,000 a year to run.