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Blog 4 - Clearing the Urchins


Zone A- On the 28th August 2012 we began the main phase of the project.  As planned we began in Zone A. Zone A was the least effected area so seemed the best place to begin and after just 11 man-hours eliminating the urchins, the area had been cleared. As expected we had to re-cover the area a number of times before the area was cleared completely and even now the odd urchin appears from under the rocks. Although this area was the least affected the difference is clear to see. There has been a huge increase in the number of fish and new fish began moving into the area. The undersea vegetation began to grow really quickly and after just 3 short months there were large sections of harpoon weed, moss, algae, top shell, as well as other unidentified species. There has also been an increase in the Snakelock anemone (sea nettle) in this area. However the last few months has brought large swells into the bay and much of the harpoon weed has been destroyed but the roots are still in place and will grow again in the spring. We have also been lucky enough to discover brown morays, black morays and golden tail morays living under the rocks.

Participants: Chris Botting, Duncan Hooper

Zone B

Zone B was a little more challenging. Manon joined us and after nearly 18 man-hours starting on the 8th September 2012 we cleared the zone. This is the same area as the Test Zones so we had a good idea as to how it would turn out once the urchins had been eliminated. Again after a few months the vegetation began to grow and more fish populated the area. Trumpet fish started to frequent the area, and in the shallows we began to see different types of bream and other species appearing. Again, the swells over the last few months have done some damage but nothing too severe.

Participants: Chris Botting, Duncan Hooper, Manon Mermety

Zone C

Zone C was a huge task as the area contained thousands of the urchins. We began to clear them on the 17th September 2012. It took 21 man-hours to cover the whole area. This time we were joined by Thomas Bernier. This area was particularly difficult due to the large rock, crevices and holes for the urchins to hide in and around.  This area has turned out more or less the same as Zone B and we are very happy with the result so far.

Participants: Chris Botting, Duncan Hooper, Manon Mermety, Thomas Bernier

Zone D & E

We covered these 2 areas simultaneously and although we lost Duncan, we gained 2 new helpers: Carl and Lucy. We began on the 28th September 2012 and 18 man-hours later we had covered both areas and reached what we call the canyons. This area has seen the least change in regards to the plant life but has seen an increase in fish populations and variety.  There is however red moss growing as well as different types of sponge appearing. Trumpet Fish are also frequently seen and lately many streaked gurnard have been spotted in this area.

Participants: Chris Botting, Manon Mermety, Thomas Bernier, Carl Kershaw, Lucy Weal

Zone H

Zone H (also known to us as The Amarilla Reef Canyons) were next. Already a really nice rock formation, we had high hopes for this area. Tony joined us and we began to tackle the area on the 8th December 2012. It took  another14 man-hours to clear. After just a few weeks, the once barren white rock were transforming and are now a bright green color with small plants and bushes growing where fields of urchins once sat. The fish population is increasing weekly and you can now see zebra bream and other fish feeding from the vegetation on the rocks. This is probably the center point of the dive site and it’s already looking great after just 2 months.

Participants: Chris Botting, Lucy Weal, Tony Gills

Zone I

Zone I is an important area as it is a large rock formation that separates the Amarilla reef from the next bay making it very difficult for the urchins to make their way back into the cleared areas. We began here on the 13th December 2012 and it took 16 man-hours to clear. Bas also joined us here. We cleared the wall on both side plus all the urchins on top of the wall.  Now we hope we have a good natural barrier to prevent the urchins repopulating the area. The wall itself has pretty much flourished in the same way as the canyons, becoming a bright green color and teaming with life.

Participants: Chris Botting, Lucy Weal, Tony Gills, Bastiaan Groen

Zone G

Zone G is situated directly above the canyons and also proved difficult due to all the nooks and crannies for the urchins to dwell and hide. We began on the 10th January 2013 and despite the problems we managed to clear the area in just 14 man-hours. The area also has great potential although we are still to see any results as we have only just recently finished here. We have also been joined by 2 new recruits: Monika and Laura.

Participants: Chris Botting, Lucy Weal, Tony Gills, Bastiaan Groen, Monika Kornecka, Laura Martin Daza

Zone F

Zone F is the final area. We started on the 18th January 2013 and are currently working in this area.

Brief Conclusion

Everybody been very surprised how quickly nature has brought life back to the reef and at the change we have seen after such a short amount of time.  Although still not a complete dive site, we have high hopes that in the coming months we will see many changes to our little reef.  The swells have done some damage but nothing that is irreparable.  Once zone F has been completed we will be monitoring the reef and making sure that no urchins make there way back in. After that, we will be monitoring changes in plant life as well as fish populations and species.

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