Even with a successful translocation of sea otters in Oregon, sea otter population growth and dispersal takes time. If an initial reintroduction occurs on the south coast where most of the best habitat occurs, it may take many decades for a viable sub-population of sea otters to become established further north. There is a chance that trends in kelp declines and spreading urchin barrens will not continue, but what if they do?
In 2020, the Oregon Kelp Alliance (ORKA) launched a pilot project using scientific divers to experimentally remove purple sea urchins to protect specific “kelp oases”. To incentivize long-term removals, ORKA is working with partners to develop a new market for purple sea urchin “uni”. The Elakha Alliance is partnering with ORKA and with David and Talya Semrad from the Oregon Freediving Company to help coordinate a possible second location here on the north coast! We are submitting a permit application for sea urchin harvest to ODFW soon, and hoping to be in the water this season! We think this effort will not only provide valuable insights into urchin management, but help engage the more divers and freedivers in kelp conservation. More to come soon.