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Kelp, Flies Cover San Diego Beaches

Kelp and seaweed cover La Jolla Shores beach on June 26, 2011.
Susan Murphy
Kelp and seaweed cover La Jolla Shores beach on June 26, 2011.

Kelp beds off San Diego’s coast thrive in cold waters. Last year’s La Nina provided perfect conditions for a large, healthy crop.

“In a good nutrient year like a La Nina, the kelp will grow very, very rapidly, and actually they can recruit from little babies, you know germinating babies and grow all the way to the surface within a year," said Ed Parnell, marine ecologist with Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

But now the waters are warming up and some of the kelp is dying off and washing ashore. And that’s attracting sworms of flies and worms.


Parnell describes the combination as “organically rich – like good mulch."

“It’s bad for tourism but it’s good for beach ecology because a lot of the animals that live on the beach in the beach community itself depend on kelp. It’s a supply of food that comes on to the beach,“ said Parnell.

Parnell says the kelp attracts flies, which lay their eggs in the kelp so their larvae can feed on it.

San Diego lifeguards say city crews are actively cleaning up the kelp and trucking it out. They say the flies can be a nuisance but overall they’re harmless.