The Killer Seaweed that Nearly Had Its Way with the California Coast

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Earth Day and the Cautionary Tale from the Book Caulerpa Conquest

A battle against a mutant form of killer seaweed raged on the California coast. Genetically modified for aquariums, it escaped into the wild where it should not have been.

Did you know a hearty strain of algae known as Caulerpa taxifolia nearly devastated the natural habitat along San Diego’s Agua Hedionda Laggo coast in Carlsbad, California?

In what sounds like the setup for a B horror movie, real-life heroes came to the rescue to save the coast. The book Caulerpa Conquest: A Biological Eradication on the California Coast, tells the story.

Eric Noel Munoz, Caulerpa Conquest, Book killer seaweed,

Eric Noel Muñoz, author of Caulerpa Conquest

“We’ve all seen the movies where a monster created by scientists in a laboratory escapes to wreak havoc on the outside world. But what if the monster was not some rampaging beast destroying a city, but just a tiny amount of seaweed with the potential to disrupt entire coastal ecosystems? This is the story of Caulerpa taxifolia,” says Eric Noel Muñoz, author of Caulerpa Conquest.

A Cautionary Tale for Earth Day 2017

The cautionary tale of how they stopped the killer algae is more poignant than ever. In the Mediterranean Sea and on beaches in Australia, they aren’t so lucky. Caulerpa taxifolia has spread and can’t be contained in those areas. The ultimate impact on the ecosystem is still uncertain.

Muñoz says, “The main lesson is to take local environmental challenge seriously; learn from others like we did from the Mediterranean Sea scientists. Form a team for swift and sound action. Don’t release aquarium contents or pets into natural areas.”

Other Potential Threats to Coasts and Oceans

Beyond the California coast, there are other potential threats to coasts and oceans that we should be aware of. “Marine invasives that get mobilized via ship ballast waters, and continued threats from institutional or personal home aquarium releases into harbors, bays, lagoons, storm drains and wetlands, are all threats,” adds Muñoz.

The take away for Earth Day 2017, according to Muñoz, “Realize that invasive species are mainly spread by human action; don’t be an agent of diffusion for biological organism. Be wary of selective breeding/genetic modification of biological organisms.”

Honor Earth Day Every Day with Books

Muñoz will present his book Caulerpa Conquest at the Earth Day celebration in the San Diego area.

He’ll be in the ocean during Earth Day, too, adding, “Based on conditions, a good surf in the morning, or if not, an offshore paddle to join the dolphins and hopefully some north-bound whales.”

If you’re looking for ways to celebrate Earth Day—which we all know is every day—grab a copy of Caulerpa Conquest. It is available on Amazon and from Open Books Press website. Also, find local events on the official Earth Day website.

Watch the video, narrated by Muñoz and created for Ted-Ed, to discover more.



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