Urchin barren off Palos Verdes coast. (Photo Credit: David Witting, NOAA)


These projects will restore over 100 acres of critical fish habitat on Palos Verdes Shelf that have been drastically reduced in this area and most of southern California. These habitats provide shelter and food for dozens of fish and hundreds of invertebrate species. Kelp Forests and Rocky Reef habitat is an important component of commercial and recreational fisheries and supports a thriving recreational industry including activities such as kayaking, snorkeling, and scuba diving.

Palos Verdes Kelp Forest Restoration  

Kelp forest habitat has made a slow but steady recovery in southern California. However, there are still areas where kelp forest recovery is limited by the formation of urchin barrens. High numbers of urchins from barrens remove all vegetation before it has a chance to grow into mature plants. The urchins are also in a constant state of starvation because there is not enough food to support the large number of them. Predators that consume urchins such as sea otters, large sheephead, and large lobsters rarely feed in urchin barrens because there is no kelp canopy that provides cover for them and the urchins have little nutritional value.

The goal of this project is to reduce the abundance of urchins from 60 acres of identified urchin barrens along the Palos Verdes Shelf area to a level that represents a healthy kelp forest habitat. Once the urchins are removed kelp plants will be able to grow and establish in these areas over time. Commercial urchin divers and volunteer divers in collaboration with The Bay Foundation, the Los Angeles Waterkeeper, and the California Science Center will remove the urchins over several years. Marine scientists from Occidental College will monitor the numbers of fish, invertebrates, and kelp plants in restored areas.

Project Update

In 2014, a total of 2 million urchins have been removed from 15 acres of reef habitat. Post monitoring data revealed a doubling of fish species richness, an increase in Kelp Bass biomass, fully-grown giant kelp plants, and a large increase in urchin gonad size. This short video shows a kelp forest springing back to life after urchins are removed.

Bunker Point Rocky Reef Project

A series of landslides along the Palos Verdes Shelf area have caused major losses of Rocky Reef habitat over the past several decades. Biologists have measured approximately 250 acres of buried, low-relief Palos Verdes reef habitat as the result of a landslide in 1999. Erosion control measures have been established but the reefs remain buried and no longer provide habitat for fish and other marine life.

Project Update

MSRP is planning to restore this lost reef habitat using rocky reef modules that are sufficiently high in relief that they will be resistant to burial in the future.. The reefs will support a diversity of fish and marine life and promote the growth of kelp forests. Studies of the biological and physical factors of the restoration were completed in 2013. Right now, MSRP is working with Occidental College and the Southern California Marine Institute to complete the environmental review and preliminary design for the project.