Swarm of sea urchins wreaks destruction on US West Coast

  • This Sept. 26, 2019 photo shows coastal waters off Greenwood State Beach where The Nature Conservancy is mapping and monitoring one of Mendocino County’s last remaining bull kelp forests near Elk, Calif. Tens of millions of voracious purple sea urchins that have already chomped their way through towering underwater kelp forests in California are now spreading north to Oregon, sending the delicate marine ecosystem off the shore into such disarray that other critical species are starving to death. A recent count found 350 million purple sea urchins on one reef in Oregon alone, a more than 10,000% increase since 2014 and in northern California, 90% of the giant kelp forests have been devoured by the urchins, perhaps never to return. (AP Photo/Terry Chea)

  • In Oct. 16, 2019 photo, a purple sea urchin sits in a touch tank at the Marine Hatfield Science Center in Newport, Ore. Tens of millions of voracious purple sea urchins that have already chomped their way through towering underwater kelp forests in California are now spreading north to Oregon, sending the delicate marine ecosystem off the shore into such disarray that other critical species are starving to death. A recent count found 350 million purple sea urchins on one reef in Oregon alone, a more than 10,000% increase since 2014 and in northern California, 90% of the giant kelp forests have been devoured by the urchins, perhaps never to return. (AP Photo/Gillian Flaccus)

  • In this undated photo, provided by Scott Groth, Groth, a diver, holds a sunflower sea star in waters off the Oregon coast near Port Orford, Ore., before the invasion of purple sea urchins. The sunflower sea star is the primary predator of the purple sea urchin and urchin numbers exploded when a mysterious wasting disease killed off millions of the sea stars beginning in 2013. Tens of millions of voracious purple sea urchins that have already chomped their way through towering underwater kelp forests in California are now spreading north to Oregon, sending the delicate marine ecosystem off the shore into such disarray that other critical species are starving to death. (Scott Groth via AP)

  • In this 2018 photo, provided by Scott Groth, a destroyed kelp forest filled with an explosion of purple sea urchins is seen off the Oregon coast near Port Orford, Ore. Tens of millions of voracious purple sea urchins that have already chomped their way through towering underwater kelp forests in California are now spreading north to Oregon, sending the delicate marine ecosystem off the shore into such disarray that other critical species are starving to death. A recent count found 350 million purple sea urchins on one reef in Oregon alone, a more than 10,000% increase since 2014 and in northern California, 90% of the giant kelp forests have been devoured by the urchins, perhaps never to return. (Scott Groth via AP)

  • In this May 20, 2019 photo, a container at the Bodega Marine Lab in Bodega Bay, Calif. holds hundreds of live purple urchins harvested from the Mendocino County coast where they have been decimating kelp forests. Tens of millions of voracious purple sea urchins that have already chomped their way through towering underwater kelp forests in California are now spreading north to Oregon, sending the delicate marine ecosystem off the shore into such disarray that other critical species are starving to death. (AP Photo/Terry Chea)

  • In this May 20, 2019 photo, a purple urchin is held at Bodega Marine Lab, which is running a pilot project to remove purple urchins from the ocean floor, feed and restore them to health, then sell them as premium seafood in Bodega Bay, Calif. Tens of millions of voracious purple sea urchins that have already chomped their way through towering underwater kelp forests in California are now spreading north to Oregon, sending the delicate marine ecosystem off the shore into such disarray that other critical species are starving to death. (AP Photo/Terry Chea)

NEWPORT, Ore. — Tens of millions of voracious purple sea urchins that have already chomped their way through towering underwater kelp forests in California are spreading north to Oregon, sending the delicate marine ecosystem off the shore into such disarray that other critical species are starving to death.

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