“The Purple Nightmare” is a documentary about the Purple Sea Urchin's (Strongylocentrotus purpuratus) effect on California’s North Coast spanning from Mendocino County, down through Monterey, Ca. In a historic effort; Abalone divers, Freedivers, the Spearfishing community, along with Commercial Red Urchin divers; led by Joshua Russo the President of The Watermen’s Alliance; have teamed up with “KELPRR” founded by Dr. Cynthia Catton, a program within the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to execute the removal of these Purple Urchins, with their goal of restoring the Bull Kelp (Nereocystis luetkeana) native to the cooler waters along California’s North Coast which is declining at an astronomical rate!
With the Purple Sea Urchin's population rising exponentially; these Purple Urchins create what is known as “Urchin barrens”. These little purple balls with spines feed with voracious appetites, drastically eating away at the Bull Kelp forests, affecting the underwater inhabitants such as the Red Abalone (Haliotis rufescens); that are literally shrinking in their shells because of the lack of kelp to feed upon, and are dying because they’re starving!
In a state of emergency, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife have closed Abalone season for 2018. In response to California’s decision to close Abalone season, and with Oregon sharing our border which includes the range of Red Abalone; the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife fearing extra pressure on their management area from California recreational divers decided to close Abalone season for the next three years with the possibility of reopening in 2021!
Devastated by these regulations changes, and the effects the Purple Urchins have had on both the recreational Abalone, and the Red Sea Urchin commercial fishery. Divers throughout Northern, Ca brave the cold and unforgiving waters, risking their own lives to restore the Bull Kelp forests; which is vital to the North Coast’s marine ecosystem. With no clear hope for recovery of the Kelp forests, or the fauna that live in and depend on it; this is a story about the good will nature of humans working together; trying to protect and restore the environment, and this film documents their efforts.