Saturday, May 27, 2006

Overfishing harms kelp forests

Kelp help fish and fish help kelp. It sounds too good to be true, sort of a "you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours" partnership.

We've long known that fish thrive in underwater kelp forests, now we find that fish help the kelp thrive.

Not only are the fish helpful, but removing fish harms kelp more than one of the other known threats, nutrient runoff. Predatory fish help kelp forests by eating snails and other kelp-eating herbivores, and thus stopping them from reducing the size of kelp forests. Scientist Ben Halpern says "this study shows that California is on the right track by limiting fishing in certain areas."

It'll be interesting to see what happens in the California's Channel Islands area now that new marine protected areas are in place. Will the protected kelp forests thrive better in the face of other threats such as El Nino and pollution?

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