Dive Projects

Since 1997, LAW’s volunteer dive team has been an influential force on the water and in the water, engaging hundreds of volunteer scientific divers in over 3,600 dives to monitor, protect and restore the region’s coastal waters. Beginning with a small group of dedicated volunteers with a goal of restoring one acre of kelp forest habitat in Malibu, a movement was ignited that has transformed 25 acres of barren reef into flourishing kelp forests.

Today, LAW is an active member of the Southern California Ocean Restoration Divers (SCORD), an organizational member of the American Academy of Underwater Sciences (AAUS), connecting LAW with underwater research and restoration efforts throughout the nation. As a grassroots organization, we are committed to providing the community with the opportunity and tools to facilitate change. Our dedicated divers contribute to the protection of our coastal marine resources, representing an established community of activists who are trained and ready to tackle future threats that will compromise the health of our ocean.

Sargassum Abatement

Continuing LA Waterkeeper’s mission to protect and restore our marine resources through community action and fieldwork, Waterkeeper  launched a new dive project in 2015 to contribute to the understanding of how the invasive algae Sargassum Horneri is impacting our nearshore ecosystems.

S. horneri, the non-native algae that has crept across the Pacific and invaded the giant kelp forests along the Southern California coast. Photo credit: Adam Obaza (NOAA).

Photo by Adam Obaza (NOAA).

This non-native algae threatens to undermine the very kelp forests we have worked so hard to restore. Our team of volunteer divers will assess the impacts of Sargassum horneri on the rocky reefs along the Los Angeles coastline, particularly in the region’s most ecologically sensitive areas like the marine reserves, which are so crucial to bringing our ocean back to health. LAW will also work to educate the public and decision-makers about the threat, and work with academic, agency and nonprofit partners to determine ways to reduce its impacts on our coastal environments.

In fact, anyone can contribute to our research through our iNaturalist campaign. By uploading photos of your sargassum sightings to our iNaturalist map, you can contribute to tracking efforts that have been underway since 2003!

Learn more about the project here.

Kelp Restoration


Photo by Tom Boyd

Our giant kelp forest, home to more than 800 species, has been reduced by 75% over the past 100 years as a result of hunting, over fishing and pollution in Los Angeles. This has left the sea urchins with very few predators and uncontrolled populations, creating an ecosystem imbalance. Sea urchins dominate the rocks rather than kelp and hundreds of species are displaced or diminished.

From 1997 to 2015, our volunteer Kelp Project Divers worked acre by acre off of the shores of Los Angeles progressively returning bleak urchin barrens into thriving kelp forest communities. This program was widely recognized for its sustained hands-on approach where volunteer scuba divers worked with staff to restore this vital undersea habitat by thinning the sea urchin population. The direct results of these efforts are the restoration of numerous acres of kelp forest, a better understanding of the status of the nearshore habitat of Santa Monica Bay and strong steps toward the widespread recovery of our coastal kelp forest. After nearly 20 years of leading kelp restoration efforts, in October 2015 LAW wrapped up its involvement in this project and other partners will carry on this important work.

View a list of Frequently Asked Questions regarding our Kelp Restoration Project here.

LAW Volunteer Dive Team

 AAUS Divers Wanted!

We are looking for certified scientific divers who are comfortable working underwater in Southern California conditions off a 24 ft. boat.  The boat ride is free and you will gain hands-on experience with restoration and monitoring work as an AAUS scientific diver.  Come out on our boat for a day, give back to your local reefs, learn kelp forest ecology, gain dive buddies, and get free air fills at local dive shops.  All our divers maintain AAUS scientific diving standards to dive on the project. You can download a complete list of prerequisites here.  The list is extensive but all of our divers have completed the requirements and maintain them year after year.

If you are interested in volunteering as an AAUS scientific diver for Los Angeles Waterkeeper, contact Marine Program Director, Michael Quill: mquill@lawaterkeeper.org | (310) 394-6162 x113

Contact Us

LA Waterkeeper
120 Broadway, Suite 105
Santa Monica, CA 90401

Email: info@lawaterkeeper.org
Phone: 310-394-6162
Fax: 310-394-6178

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