San Diego Port Declares Emergency Over Invasive Species of Seaweed

Because a harmful algal species is proliferating in South San Diego Bay, the Port of San Diego has issued a local emergency declaration.

New patches of the Caulerpa prolifera algae have been appearing in the bay and around the Coronado Cays since their discovery in September 2023.

As it rapidly expands, this tropical algae overtakes native seagrass and seaweed, threatening the survival of marine organisms.

Eelgrass provides food and shelter for indigenous fish, birds, and green sea turtles in San Diego Bay, but the intruder threatens this vital plant. As the port reported, approximately 1,900 acres of the 2,600 acres of eelgrass in the bay are located in the southern zone.

The current area of Caulerpa in San Diego Bay, which includes areas close to the Coronado Cays and the San Diego Bay National Wildlife Refuge, is around 11,200 square feet. Although authorities have not determined precisely where the infestation originated, they have speculated that someone dumped a saltwater aquarium into the bay, as seaweed is a typical plant seen in such environments.

It is against the law to possess, sell, or transport Caulerpa in the Golden State. Officials also forbid the disposal of saltwater aquariums into state waterways. Additionally, aquarium water shouldn’t be poured down the drain since storm sewers and street drains sometimes go to the ocean.

Port authorities stated that those found in possession, selling, or transporting this particular sort of seaweed inside the state are liable to penalties that vary from $500 to $10,000 per infraction.

A similar outbreak of the algae in the Mediterranean Sea in the 1980s cost the region’s fishing and tourist businesses millions of euros.

Although Caulerpa has been seen in California before, this is the first sighting of the algae in San Diego Bay. According to authorities, the state has been keeping an eye out for the algae since the early 2000s. Carlsbad, California’s Huntington Harbour, and Aqua Hedionda Lagoon were both plagued with a Caulerpa species at that time.

The infestation has been a problem in Newport Bay since 2021, according to authorities.