Alex Sher is a world-renowned fine art photographer who quickly achieved international acclaim in underwater fine art and wildlife photography. His award-winning photographs have been exhibited in greatest museums and galleries, published worldwide in photo books and magazines.
Alex started taking his cameras underwater in 2010 on his holidays. He currently lives in Los Angeles, where he is working on a new environmental project focusing on the decimation of California's kelp forest.
For centuries, Ocean appeared invulnerable to human recklessness. Today it needs our attention and support. Nuclear pollution, oil leaks, vast clumps of plastic garbage, overfishing, relocation of species together comprise an incomplete list of human gratitude for all the Ocean has provided. What can I do to protect the ocean? It is huge and I am small. Nevertheless, I am a human and a professional, and here is a problem I can start with.
Kelp forests run in the waters off California beaches for many miles. These trees of kelp crawl from rock to rock and lean toward the sunbeams dappling the ocean surface, their depths dotted with darting orange garibaldi fish. On a calm day, you can see from the cliffs the kelps golden branches resting on the waves. When winter storms tear the trees from their rocky holdfasts and throw them ashore, you walk among the brown bodies looking for clean sand. Until you dive and see these beauties in their majestic natural home.
Have you ever flown like a bird between 60-foot trees with fish and sea lions gamboling among them? It is amazing how everything is alive here: breathing, hunting, mating, and watching you at the same time.
Kelp roots are different from those of land-based plants. They do not deliver nutrients up to leaves. Instead, the leaves depend on nutrients they glean from upwelling ocean water. Kelp plants are sensitive to water composition and temperature. The water must be cold to create the conditions that allow those nutrients to well upward in a vertical current. Without the nutrients that travel in those currents, the kelp forest dies.
As the water off California becomes warmer, it disrupts this natural process, starving and shrinking the kelp forest. Many places off the California coast that I once visited regularly for kelp diving are now empty. There’s no kelp to be found because of changing ocean conditions. And because there’s no kelp, there are no fish, no sea lions. There’s nothing but sand and starving sea urchins. And it gets worse every year.
Last year, the state’s Fish & Wildlife Department warned of a “perfect storm” decimating kelp forests in Northern California: “Kelp forests have been reduced to an all-time low due to a large-scale ecological impacts. Kelp forests are now 93 percent smaller compared to previous years, creating starvation conditions for herbivores. https://cdfwmarine.wordpress.com/2016/...
"I have been diving and photographing the kelp forests for years. As a diver and a biologist I’ve watched rapid changes in this undersea world I love so much. We need to help the kelp forest. It is not just seaweed; it is a unique ecosystem that feeds and protects ocean life. Losing it would be a disaster, and not just for the garibaldis and sea lions. It would be a disaster for us, the one we wouldn’t fully understand until it was too late."
We can do a few simple things to help sustain and protect California’s kelp forests:
Locate areas with lower water temperatures due to local currents and the bottom-surface profile.
Create artificial reefs in the coldwater areas and let kelp anchor to the reefs.
Create Marine Protected Areas (MPA) in cold water areas.
We need to save kelp. It matters for so much beyond the kelp itself.