California bans recreational abalone diving

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In a way its not surprising. Last April, when I was on the Mendocino coast, there were dozens of divers taking Abalone… I hadn’t even known that they had begun to allow harvesting again, but they were out in force.

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Ab diving north of the golden gate has been open for well over a decade. It was booming for a whole and the population was recovering.


Fishing out a small area decreases the available population of a recently endangered species…who knew?

Divers want to be left ab-alone.

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Didn’t know! Sad it’s now in decline.

What about Medical Abalone Diving?


Seems to be a consequence of sea star wasting disease which has led to a boom in urchin population and consequent crash in kelp density. Kelp has declined all along the west coast.


Probably among other things. Shellfish are extremely sensitive to water temperatures and coastal water temps around the US have been higher than expected all along both coasts for several years. On the East Coast the last few years we’ve had temperature driven mussel die offs. An almost unheard of thing in the north east.


Ah, baloney!


When we moved down here to San Diego in 1976, it seemed that everybody had a stack of abalone shells on the back deck. they were the ubiquitous ashtray on every patio table, where a few years later we stubbed out our illicit clove cigarettes when the parents came back home. Now, I only see abalone shells in touristy shops.


I learned about abalone when I got dive certified, 25 years ago…I have never felt comfortable about eating it, ever since.

I saw the image and immediately knew this was a Jason post :slight_smile:

My understanding is abalone can be farmed. Given that, why was fishing it in the wild ever allowed at all?

a dramatic increase in the population of purple sea urchins have competed for the remaining kelp with the abalone.

Let’s encourage diving for sea urchins and eat those! (Yum!)

It’s probably driven by economics as well as environment.

A notable theme in US media over the last few years has been stories about people trying to make a living from “recreational” wild resource harvesting. Mushroom pickers etc.

Regulations designed to allow casual, local use of the commons can’t cope with intensive profit-driven extraction.

Because commercial exploitation of wild stocks wasn’t. But it isn’t practically possible to farm shellfish recreational. A small recreational catch of a single species was considered sustainable. It required a license and the number of abalone a diver could take was strictly limited. Other factors besides pretty damn small scale recreational collection seem to be what’s preventing recovery.

That’s probably not a factor at all. Its illegal to sell these things. In any fashion. They basically provided a limited number of licenses allowing people to take just enough for personal consumption. The only abalone that can be bought and sold in the US are farmed or imported.

More over the sale of most seafood in the US without commercial license/tags is illegal. Its poaching, and there are heavy fines and sometimes even jail time involved. I know a commercial fisherman who was caught selling Striped Bass without tags direct to a restaurant. Both he and the restaurant were fined heavily. Lost his Stripped bass license/quota. And the other fisherman don’t generally speak to him anymore. They were only caught red handed with one fish, and penalties are based on weight/value of the catch. Had he been caught with more (and he’d pretty obviously taken more and regularly) he would have been subject to criminal charges and even higher fines.

The foragers, mushroom collectors, ramp and fiddlehead fern collectors you hear about selling things and making a living. Well they aren’t exploiting things “recreationally”. They are professionals. Its just that the sort of things they’re collecting/exploiting aren’t generally controlled or regulated. Mushroom stocks are not in danger so there is no regulatory structure controlling how many are collected or by whom. And no license is needed to do so. Unlike fishing you do not have a divide between commercial regulation and licensing and recreational regulation and licensing.


Each abalone has to be at least seven inches in diameter, meaning it is probably at least 10 years old. Each shell must be tagged and recorded immediately. It cannot be resold.

But temptations are real, and the black market for poached red abalone is active, because a full-size one can fetch $100 or more.

With roughly 250,000 red abalone legally captured for sport in California annually, and estimates that at least as many are taken illegally each year, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, including its undercover Special Operations Unit, spends as much time and resources protecting abalone as any other creature in California.

Yeah, as you say, there’s enforcement. But it still looks like at least half the catch was already going to the black market in 2014, and that’s likely to get worse as economic hardship increases.

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I guess I don’t see the connection between the popularity of foraging. Even as a business and “hey I guess I’ll get into poaching seafood”.

I’m also haven’t seen that tough economic times (recently and nationally) have all that much effect on seafood poaching in my actual fishing town that I actually live in. Poaching is definitely a factor. And it can put incredible stress on endangered animals and stressed fisheries.

But seafood poaching isn’t exactly something you can just get into. It takes skill, And equipment (often insanely expensive equipment). Yes recreational fisherman will take beyond the limits, which probably represents a huge unrecorded aspect of over catch. And occasionally those guys will be caught selling.

But most of your commercial poachers are professional fisherman. With all the equipment and skills needed. And the connections to wholesalers and buyers to offload things quietly. Because it takes volume to make this shit work. No-one is changing their life with a couple hundred bucks in illicit fish.

Your also talking about seaside communities where the people with those skills, equipment and connections. Well 2008 didn’t exactly change things for them. Fisherman and many seaside communities saw things collapse in the 70s and 80s and they largely never recovered. These people have been barely keeping it together for a couple decades.

From what I understand of abalone. Most of the poaching is apparently done off scuba, where as recreationally it’s done by diving/snorkeling. And there isn’t really an extant commercial fishery. The areas you find them, And could recreationally collect arent doing terrible fishing wise (thanks to aquaculture). But it’s still not something you can just say “well lost my job, guess I’ll get rich poaching abalone”. It’s expensive, you have to know what you’re doing, and you have to be in a very specific place.

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