I am a Sea Urchin and a part of a class of organisms called Echinoidea. There are 950 species of Echinoderms in all of the world’s ocean and found all over the world in warm and cold water, typically in rock pools, mud, coral reefs, kelp forests, and seagrass beds. I live in clumps of 5-10 and my lifespan often exceeds 30 years, however scientists have found some specimens to live over 200 years making me one of the longest living animals on earth. I am round and spiny ranging from 3-10 cm. I can be various colors including black, dull shades of green, olive, brown, purple, blue and red. Since I am nocturnal, I usually hide during the day and become more active and feed at night. I prefer to eat seagrass and seaweed that grows on the rocky seafloor. Sea urchins are a primary food source for sea otters, starfish, wolf eels, triggerfish, and others that hunt for me. In the San Diego area, sea urchins are important to kelp forest ecosystems as a food source for the California spiny lobster and sheephead.
On Friday, January 6, 2017, WILDCOAST joined San Diego Councilmembers Barbara Bry and Lorie Zapf, and other conservation organizations, to urge President Obama to protect the coast of San Diego from any future offshore drilling. Recent efforts to prevent the Pacific region’s outer continental waters from oil and gas development have so far yielded only temporary protection.
I am the The Pacific Sand Crab, also known as the Mole Crab, a staple of the southern California beach goers experience. I am most frequently found on tidal sandy stretches of warm and sunny summertime beaches. I am quick to burrow to evade birds (Sandpipers, scooters and plovers) and fish (surfperch, corbina and small sharks) that key in on me as a food source. Humans with a quick hand have a shot at capturing me for amature science observation. A common sight on the beaches of San Diego County are inquisitive children armed with nothing more than plastic buckets and a sense of curiosity hunting me in the backwash of retreating waves.
These special wild places include: Baja’s Pacific Islands Biosphere Reserve, a brand new 2.7 million-acre wildlife reserve offshore from Baja’s Pacific coast, that we advocated for over the past five years; Laguna San Ignacio, a pristine gray whale birthing lagoon where we have helped to conserve 450,000-acres of habitat; Magdalena Bay, a lagoon that provides sanctuary for gray whales in Baja, where this year we helped to conserve over 182 miles of shoreline and 3,709-acres of mangrove islands; Morro Ayuta beach in Oaxaca, where our team is busy protecting the more than 600,000 Olive Ridley sea turtles that nest there each year; and the coast of California, where we are leading the effort to manage over 500,000 acres of marine protected areas that are home to elephant seals, gray whales, black sea bass, green sea turtles and the elusive leopard shark.
A few months ago, we installed a few hidden cameras in the Valle de los Cirios, Baja California, on areas protected by WILDCOAST. These “wild lands” have been certified by Mexico’s National Commission of Natural Protected Areas and are the largest private coastal reserve network in Mexico, reaching 32980.92 acres.
WILDCOAST started this biological inventory program to register and identify the types of wildlife that inhabit Valle de los Cirios. The hidden cameras were installed strategically to document the presence of wild fauna but also to not disturb or damage their habitat.
There is no place on the California coast quite like Año Nuevo State Park. This jewel of a reserve that hugs Highway 1 between San Francisco and Santa Cruz is a haven for terrestrial and marine wildlife. Between December and late March northern elephant seals can be found along the shoreline where they are resting, mating and giving birth. It is a spectacular wildlife spectacle along one of the most beautiful stretches of coastline in California.
In addition to the extensive terrestrial protection that abuts Big Basin Redwoods State Park and Butano State Park, the area is the home of the Año Nuevo State Marine Conservation Area, one of 15 marine protected areas off of the Central Coast. Due to the presence of the elephant seals that are the preferred food of white sharks, this area is known for its shark sightings. Researchers use the abandoned Lighthouse Station on Ano Nuevo Island for shark tagging.
Last week, a WILDCOAST team traveled to Puerto San Carlos in the community of Magdalena Bay. After three hours on the road surrounded by nothing other than cardon cacti, we arrived at our destination. As you enter Puerto San Carlos, you are welcomed by a sea of mangroves that surround the community, and you are instantly wowed.
Magdalena Bay is the largest wetland in Baja California and provides habitat for some of most pristine and biologically important mangroves in the world. Research has shown that coastal desert mangroves store up to five times more carbon than tropical mangroves.
I am the single most important organism in kelp forest ecosystems. So important in fact, scientists named the entire ecosystem after me. I am uniquely adapted to thriving in nearshore rocky habitat that covers much of the benthos of San Diego county’s marine areas. Something that most people do not know about me is that I am not a plant but actually an algae. I differ from plants in many ways, but most noticeably I do not have roots. I have what is known as a holdfast, which I use as an anchor to secure themselves to the seafloor. As one of the fastest growing organisms on the planet, I have been recorded growing by as much as 2 feet a day and reaching sizes of 150 feet in a single growing season. As a primary producer, I provide nourishment for the entire southern California ecosystem and facilitate San Diego counties vast biodiversity.
By Eduardo Najera and Fay Crevoshay.
The WILDCOAST team carried out an expedition to Cuba in September with a film crew from “Por el Planeta”, a national news program on Mexico’s Televisa network. The objective was to document the incredible richness of Cuba’s coral reef and mangrove ecosystems and protected areas. It is almost impossible to describe or even depict the beauty and of Cuba’s underwater and coastal treasures and their importance for the conservation of ocean biodiversity. But at places like Jardines de la Reina, one of the world’s most well preserved marine protected areas, or at Guanahacabibes National Park, the richness of the corals and mangroves give life to the ocean.
You may have seen me florescent orange, ebbing and flowing with tidal surges against the dark backdrop of the sea floor. If you have snorkeled, swam, or kayaked near La Jolla Cove (in the Matlahuayl State Marine Reserve) you may have noticed me curiously pecking away at exposed sections of rocky reef in search of tidbits of food, my favorite being small invertebrates. Just like you I also have a home and at a certain age I built myself a house in order to find a mate. My mate or mates lay eggs in the rocky substrate that I maintain and fiercely protect. I have been known to aggressively attack anything swimming too close to my developing eggs… even humans! Because of my charisma and tenacity I was named the California state marine fish and was also the inspiration for Dr. Seuss’ “red fish” in the popular story of Cat in the Hat.
Why should humans care about me? [Read more…]