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Saving California's Kelp Forest May Depend On Eating Purple Sea Urchins

"A favorite dish for purple sea urchins living off the coast of California is kelp. Problem is, those kelp forests are shrinking dramatically and that's hurting the marine ecosystem. So a group of scientists ran an experiment to see if these sea urchins can become a top menu item themselves."

"Just off the Monterey Peninsula, a boat sways in the ocean. Three divers get ready to jump in. They're students from Moss Landing Marine Laboratories, a graduate school for marine scientists. The assignment, count purple sea urchins."

"'Catch you on the flip side,' says Shelby Penn."

"Their professor, Luke Gardner, waits on deck. He expects they'll find plenty of urchins. And that's not a good thing."

"What they do is they just eat everything in sight," Gardner says.

These spiny creatures are mowing down California's kelp forests. Kelp is a vital part of the ecosystem. It provides food and shelter for numerous animals, including abalone, rockfish and sea otters.


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