Orange County Coastkeeper is participating in surveying and eradicating the invasive algae called Caulerpa prolifera in Newport Bay. The algae, which is native to Florida and other subtropical and tropical locales, is scientifically known as Caulerpa prolifera. It can grow quickly and spread easily, choking out native seaweeds and potentially harming marine life through lost habitat.
The removal effort is being led by Merkel & Associates and Marine Taxonomic Services, and began in early July in Newport Bay’s China Cove, next to the Kerckhoff Marine Laboratory. Removal involves a diver-assisted suction and divers in the water surveying the area and removing loose pieces and fragments. Coastkeeper is conducting dive surveys and monitoring in the surrounding coves just north of where the invasive species was first detected.
Caulerpa prolifera and its close relatives in the genus Caulerpa can spread quickly, rapidly out-competing native species, including native eelgrass, and have previously caused significant and expensive damage to coastal waters in California. This species group has also had extensive impacts elsewhere, including throughout the Mediterranean and Australia. Allowing any species of this algae to become established and spread within California is likely to result in considerable economic, recreational, and biological impacts. The hope is that it can be removed swiftly and not get established in other areas. Beachgoers, boaters and users of the bay that have sightings of this species are encouraged to report it to the Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Following the collaborative model provided by the successful eradication response of C. taxifolia in 2006, the Southern California Caulerpa Action Team (SCCAT), made up of several federal agencies and partners was reconvened to respond to this new threat posed by C. prolifera. The SCCAT recently completed a rapid response and eradication plan for this invasive green alga and are collaboratively working together to implement that plan.
“We couldn’t do this work without our partners. It’s an extremely important process because we need to ensure this species does not disrupt our native species and keep our local habitats intact,” said Katie Nichols, Marine Restoration Director for Orange County Coastkeeper.