Disease affecting collector urchins off Oahu

Image source: DLNR/DAR
Image source: DLNR/DAR

HONOLULU (AP) - Officials are investigating a disease affecting a native species of sea urchin that's being used to control invasive seaweed at Kaneohe Bay.

The state Department of Land and Natural Resources said Friday the disease is affecting collector urchin called hawae in Hawaiian.

The disease is affecting hawae in Maunalua Bay as well.

The department says Nature Conservancy biologists first reported the disease in February after observing sick urchins on an artificial reef in Kaneohe Bay.

An initial assessment from the U.S. Geological Survey indicates the disease causes progressive spine loss. Lab tests to identify the disease are ongoing.

Division of Aquatic Resources Administrator Frazer McGilvray says officials don't yet know how far the disease has spread. The investigation will study that.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.