By CBSLA Staff

NEWPORT BEACH (CBSLA) — An effort to remove and eradicate an invasive algae species from Newport Harbor was underway Thursday.

Removal of an invasive algae species will begin Wednesday in Newport Harbor. (Source: California Department of Fish And Wildlife)

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The invasive algae, scientifically known as Caulerpa prolifera, was first discovered in the China Cove beach area of Newport Harbor in March. The city has been working since then with multiple federal, state and local agencies to identify the extent of the algae’s growth and to develop a removal plan.

“All invasive species do something to displace native species,” Dr. Robert Mooney, a marine biologist, said. “And what we all have to realize is that they predominantly move around because of our activities.”

Divers are expected to extract the plant from the seafloor using vacuum pumps over four to five days. The material pumped from the seafloor will then be pumped onshore into a container where the algae and other solids will be separated from the water, which will then be discharged back into the harbor.

The algae is not dangerous to humans or wildlife, but can spread easily and choke out native plants and critical marine habitats both inside and outside of the bay.

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“It can spread so easily,” John Pope, spokesperson for the city of Newport Beach, said. “All it takes is a small piece to break off, float through the water and root somewhere else.”

According to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Caulerpa prolifera and its close relatives in the genus Caulerpa have caused significant and expensive damage to the coastal waters in California, Australia and throughout the Mediterranean.

After the removal is complete, divers will continue to conduct surveys immediately after and over time to help ensure the species is completely eradicated and does not repopulate the area. The divers will also continue survey surrounding areas to determine whether areas outside the bay have been invaded.

The removal and diver surveys will be funded by the State Water Resources Control Board and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service.

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More information about Caulerpa prolifera and what to do if spotted can be found on the CDFW’s website about invasive algae.