“Babe! I sprayed mouth everywhere!” I never thought I’d find myself screaming these words on a tranquil Sunday morning in my tiny San Francisco kitchen. Then again, I never thought I’d find myself staring at a sink full of spiky, purple aliens with a knife murderously clutched in one hand, the ethereal voice of Phoebe Bridgers softly crooning in the background. But these vibrant little aliens – purple sea urchins, in actuality – have become a major headache for the Pacific west coast. Their population has exploded by 10,000% since 2014 , with scientists blaming the decline of sea otter and starfish populations – two of the urchin’s natural predators. Hundreds of millions of purple sea urchins now blanket the coast from Baja to Alaska, where they have been devouring the region’s vital kelp forests, doing untold damage to the marine ecosystem in the process. In California, it is estimated that 95% of the kelp forests, which serve as both shelter and food to a wide range of marine life, has been decimated and replaced by so-called “ urchin barrens ” – vast carpets of spiked purple orbs along the ocean floor. That’s why marine biologists and chefs have […]

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