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Best Practices for Animal Removal:

Best Practices for Animal Removal:

  • butter knives (or plastic putty knives...1-2 inch, round corners if possible, no serrated edges)

  • Grab bag

    • Preferred, largemouth, one hand opening, fabric not mesh

  • Rubber mallet

  • Many sites will have literally too many animals and/or too much area to cover it all.  So prioritizing is key.  So how do you choose when you can’t take them all.

  • Likelihood of survival?  Is your animal going to survive the transfer?  Is there a good location for it to go to?

  • How rare is the animal?  Animals that are less common/numerous should be focused on.

  • Is there a nearby public aquarium that can rehome the animals?  This must be planned before and needs to meet their requirements.  Please do NOT show up at the front door with a bucket of _____.

Possible new homes/placing the animals
  • Animals generally live in their preferred habitat.  In other words, things on solid substrate want to be on solid substrate.  So taking animals from a piling and putting on a sandy bottom are unlikely to help, especially if the animal has limited mobility.

  • Animals should only be transferred to nearby sites as this minimizes the chance of the transplants being a vector for disease. 

  • Look for similar depth when possible, for example Ochre stars (Pisaster ochraceous) are generally found in shallower water.

  • Think about currents and wave action which could wash your animals away (and likely to their death).  Anemones can take hours to reattach so place them in a slot, crevice or groove that can hold them for a long period of time.

  • Try to place them upright and in normal positions.  An upside down chiton may get eaten before it can turn back upright.

  • 2 person teams

  • preliminary dive for safety/liability and viability (is it a dive site or is there a new home?).

  • Divers need to be at least Advanced Open Water Certified.

How to remove Giant Barnacles and Rock Scallops:
  • Solitary barnacles on solid surface...almost impossible to remove intact, but shell may have other organisms.  If surface is decaying, maybe able to break off the substrate

  • Clumps of barnacles...strong hit with palm of hand or rubber mallet which will likely break/destroy barnacle(s) that are attached to surface but can save others in clump.

  • Rock scallops are similar.  Need to find scallop only slightly attached.  If plate is completely attached, almost no chance unless breaks first.

  • Even if barnacles or rock scallops are dead, their shells are habitat for lots of small animals/substrate

How to remove animals in giant barnacle: (pygmy crabs, grunt sculpins)
  • Difficult to do safely without breaking barnacle shell and damaging animal.

  • Easiest is to break barnacle shell with a pry or mallet and then grab animal.

How to remove anemones:
  • Swimming anemones will voluntarily detach when touched with a predator (best leather star/Dermasterias, also striped star/Solaster stimpsoni).  Hold the predator against the anemone for 1-2 minutes, anemone will start to twist and move, and then pop off the surface.

  • Plumose anemone attach the weakest.  It is possible to remove by a quick grab and tug of the column, works ~25% of the time.

  • Anemones can be removed by working the butter knife under an edge.  Ideally look for a location where the anemone isn’t attached to a flat surface, but is on top of barnacles or other breakable surface.  Use that for the “entry” point under the base.  Then start working the knife under the edge.  Can then slowly peel/scrape off the anemone.  Anemone will respond by secreted white defensive threads which are not harmful.  Be careful to not puncture the bottom of the disk because this can cause the anemone to die.

  • Reattaching for an anemone may take hours.  Find a spot that is on a solid surface, preferably a crack or valley where the anemone can be set.  If site is current sensitive, the anemone may “roll off” and will likely end up in an unsuitable environment, such as 800 feet deep. 

  • Note, anemones can move so if they don’t like the place they can shift to a better location.

How to remove seastars and urchins:
  • Surprise is the best.  Grab, twist and yank in one short motion.  Will likely come off.

  • If surprise is lost, removal will likely take a strong and consistent tug.  Try to twist clockwise or counter-clockwise as this is the weakest direction for them to attach.  Pulling straight off is where they are strongest.

  • Try to pry up one or more arms and then use that as your lever.

  • If you still cannot remove, then shove a pry bar (screwdriver, short bar) and lever upwards.

  • Last ditch, use your knife and cut loose the animals.

How to remove limpets and chitons:
  • Surprise is best.

  • If possible, grab or push with the palm of your hand.  If it slides a ways, you can frequently then knock it loose.

  • If can’t knock lose, then use the flat edge of the butter knife and pry it up. 

Let's Work Together

If you're interested in learning more about these techniques from experienced divers, please check out clean up page for upcoming clean up events to join us at.

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