What Happened: In an April 22 press release the California Department of Fish and Wildlife reported an invasive species of algae in Newport Bay.
The species of Caulerpa was found by a diver at the Entrance Channel area and was later identified by the California Department of Food and Agriculture as Caulerpa prolifera.
The diver was a videographer for OC Parks and caught the algae on camera in October, but it was not until the diver returned for a second shoot in March that the algae caused alarm.
Leaf Caulerpa, as it is known, is native to Florida and other subtropical areas, and is commonly used in macro tanks as a sand bed cover and its seagrass-like appearance.
The algae can grow up to 6 feet in length and is identified by its dark green, slender, oval-shaped blades.
While the algae is not harmful to humans, the CDFW is concerned about the algae overrunning local environments by choking out native seaweeds and potentially causing a loss of habitat for local marine animals.
The algae can produce through fragmentation, when small pieces break off and take root, which means that they can spread quickly and through minimal contact.
The algae is closely related to another species of caulerpa, Caulerpa taxifolia or Killer Alga that was found in California waters in 2000.
The species was extremely harmful, aside from its invasive nature, it had a toxic effect on local marine life.
The species was eradicated from California in 2006 after a six-year project and it ultimately cost $7 million.
In the April 22 press release from the CDFW, the department announced they had deployed a team of divers to identify and map the location of the species and determine if it had spread.
What’s on Tap: The Newport Harbor Commission met on May 12 and heard from Chris Miller, Newport Beach public works manager and member of the Southern California Caulerpa Action Team, to discuss the next steps to get rid of the Caulerpa prolifera.
The team was created after Caulerpa taxifolia was discovered in the early 2000s. Miller is working with his team and several other agencies including the Army Corp of Engineers and the CDFW to survey and create a plan to eradicate the algae from the China Cove where it is located.
The discovery of the Caulerpa came days before Newport Beach was supposed to start their dredging project. The field of the algae is directly adjacent to the last part of the set dredging project.
Miller and his team have a vague plan to vacuum and then dredge the field. Ideally the area will be vacuumed to catch floating biomass and then three to four inches of sediment will be dredged and put into mesh bags that will allow the water to be drained before the bag and the sediment inside are removed to a landfill.
Currently Miller’s team is conducting surveys to discover the extent of the algae and to track the spread.
There is also the funding that has come into question, the CDFW and SCCAT are looking at state funds like a cleanup and abatement fund that is overseen by the water board.
Miller estimated that the eradication of the algae is around $200,000, not including the cost for continued surveys that would go on in the coming months.
For right now, the area is cordoned off to create a swim line and visible boundary for the public to steer clear.
There are also yellow signs posted at the staircase entrance to China Cove to alert the public.
Miller predicts that the project could take between one to two weeks but they are still working on a set and detailed plan.