RANCHO PALOS VERDES (CBS/AP) — An environmental group says decimated giant kelp forests in Southern California are returning to health after volunteers removed nearly 2 million urchins that devour the sea plants.

The Bay Foundation reports Wednesday that its first year of efforts have restored some 12 ½ acres of kelp forests along the Palos Verdes Peninsula and the new forests have drawn species including Garibaldi, bass, California sheephead, spiny lobster and octopus.

The foundation says the peninsula’s kelp canopy has declined by 75 percent over the past century, partly due to pollution and overfishing, allowing urchins to take hold.

A multiyear project, launched last July, uses divers to crush the malnourished and often diseased purple sea urchins that have crowded out most other life. The group eventually plans to clear about 150 acres.

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