The Flying Shingle
Innovative ‘help the kelp’ program seeds success
Monday, July 14, 2014

Efforts to help regrow the kelp beds off Gabriola’s coast have paid off, according to kelp helper Michael Mehta.
And the technique used to seed new kelp beds is internationally recognised for its innovation, Mehta said in a July 2 interview at his home off Orlebar Point.
Mehta said the reseeding efforts are clearly working, as bull kelp heads are peeking up above the water’s surface “all the way down to Clark Bay” from Orlebar Point.
“We planted in Clark Bay – right in front of Camp Miriam – to the end of Seagirt, and all the way down to just beside the Surf Lodge,” Mehta said. “That’s filling in, and what’s happening is, because the currents run both directions throughout the year, it seems that a lot of the spores have worked their way down and are now filling in the gap between the Surf, and Orlebar Point.”
“There’s a tremendous amount of kelp growing that was not there before,” Mehta said. We know it wasn’t there before – just a bit here and there – because we mapped it.”
“So it seems to be working very well,” Mehta continued, “and what’s beautiful about it, is that what we’ve pioneered on the island, with trial and error, is the first spore transplant technique in the world.”
“When I presented this stuff at the Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference in Seattle in May,” Mehta said, “people were very excited. Community groups around the world have been trying to figure this out.”
The conference is “a big event,”  Mehta noted, with “a thousand plus people there”.
“We figured out a low-cost, do-it-yourself approach that anybody – you don’t need divers – can do,” Mehta said. “It just requires a little bit of planning and some harvesting of the healthy kelp from areas on the island that are super-dense.” He said the plants were “shocked” into releasing their spores by drying them out for 24 hours, before putting them back into water.
Using what Mehta called the “carboy protocol”, he said they sank plastic wine carboys drilled full of holes, and stuffed with the spores. “Weight them down for a couple of days,” he said, “and then pull them back up and re-stuff them. So it’s a really simple technique – it’s emulating what nature does anyway.”
This year, Mehta said, they will try running a floated line across a bay, weighted down in the ends and middle, and will use smaller containers to disperse the spores. He said they will “try to do a whole bay at one time and then just pull them out of the back of the boat”.
Kelp helpers have been running this program for less than $1,000 per year, Mehta said, but they need donations to pay for equipment and fuel for the boat so they can continue mapping.
As previously reported, the Help the Kelp project was started by Gabriolans Ken Capon, Victor Anthony, Paul O’Sullivan, Charlie Cheffins, Mehta, and others in 2009 when Capon put out a call for about $400 to get the project going. Anthony reported that the community responded with “considerable enthusiasm”.

Want to forward this article? Here's the link: