Save California's Purple Hydrocoral
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California’s precious Purple Hydrocoral and bastion of marine ecosystem health is being rapidly destroyed.
The Stylaster californicus, or “Purple Hydrocoral,” used to thrive abundantly in Farnsworth Bank on the backside of Catalina Island. But every year, over 200 boats drop anchors on this marine sanctuary, permanently destroying a treasured species endemic to the temperate waters of the Eastern Pacific. In an effort to prevent further damage, Los Angeles diving community Ocean Safari, under the management of Dan Stephens, is calling upon the support of its network and the Secretary of Natural Resource to save the Purple Hydrocoral.
In 1972 California State designated Farnsworth Bank a marine conservation area in efforts to stymie hydrocoral harvesting. While this has contributed in a small way to the preservation of Catalina’s ecosystem, the four decades since has proved other ways of harming marine life. Diving and fishing activity has led to boats continually dropping anchors on the pinnacle. With every visit, they cause huge damage to the rich marine ecosystem. And because Purple Hydrocoral takes hundreds of years to grow just one foot in diameter, the harm is almost irreparable. Luckily, a program exists to mitigate this destruction.
For thirty-five years Florida National Marine Sanctuary (FNMS) and Hawaii have been using a program that saves hundreds of coral reefs every day. This program involves putting a permanent mooring buoy over a site so that divers and fishers could visit without repeatedly dropping, setting, and resetting anchors. To date, FNMS has established over 750 of these buoys to protect its marine habitats. The Ocean Safari diving community proposes a similar initiative at Farnsworth Bank.
Due to buoys’ short lifespans and Farnsworth’s high traffic, establishing two or three buoys is, in effect, more economical for dive-site maintenance in the long run. Setting at least two permanent mooring buoys is undoubtedly the most beneficial solution to the hydrocoral destruction problem. Doing so not only protects one of California’s hydrocoral populations, but also protects the benthic life on the substrate and encourages the growth of a diverse ecosystem. This, in turn, leads to the steady revival of California’s natural, healthy marine environment. Needless to say, that marine environment is integral to the overall health of the Channel Islands’ sensitive ecology.
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