southern california kelp forest

What is happening to SoCal Kelp Forests?


It is obvious to most anglers in the southern regions of California that the fishery is ever-changing. The presence of warmer waters, different species and their longer presence in the area are the most prominent. Many effects have been positive and have resulted in some great stories and fishing trips. Through all the positives, there has been a lurking issue becoming more of a concern.

Southern California is home to the largest kelp forests on the west coast. They provide refuge to countless species including Yellowtail, Kelp Bass (or Calico), as well as the threatened White and Black Sea Bass to name a few. They are highly essential to the fisheries and cornerstones of the local fishing industry. 

Not too long ago, these kelp forests were bountiful. They would cover a large amount of the rocky shorelines and reefs, branching out across the surface for miles. Over the past few years, there has been a rapid decline in kelp presence. 

Why are kelp forests disappearing?

To keep it short and sweet, kelp forests thrive on nitrogen in the waters. Nitrogen is much more prevalent with cooler ocean temperatures. Over the past few years, we have seen a rise in temperatures in this area. Warmer water means less Nitrate and more CO2, which hurts the growth rate of kelp. 

Kelp grows quite quickly given the proper conditions. Unfortunately, there is nothing we can do by means of protected areas or conservation to speed up the recovery process. It is strictly reliant on water conditions. 

(Point Loma Kelp Forest in 2014)



Will the kelp grow back this year?

According to the National Geographic Area Coordination Center (GACC), ocean surface temperatures have been below average for the main part of 2022 so far. They estimate a slight warming trend for the summer months, but this could easily change. 

If the kelp is to make a strong regrowth, the waters need to cooperate and stop following the trends we have seen in recent years. The trend may have been an anomaly, but the only thing we can do is wait and find out.