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January 2019    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Vol. 34, No. 1   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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No Abalone Diving in California Until at Least 2021

from the January, 2019 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

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It's more bad news for California's abalone divers: Already having missed a whole season in 2018, they won't be able to go again for at least two more years. Last month, the California Fish and Game Commission (CFGC) decided to keep the state's recreational abalone fishery closed through April 2021 to give the shellfish population a chance to bounce back. They based the decision on low density surveys from key sites along the North Coast.

The season is usually open from April to November for recreational diving north of San Francisco, but has been limited in recent years and was closed completely last year. The trouble really began with the El Niño of 2014-16, which sparked extreme environmental conditions for coastal environments: a massive kelp die-off and exploding numbers of purple sea urchins, which compete with abalone to eat the bull kelp left the slow-growing sea snails starving and not reproducing. Last year, the CFGC changed the rules to allow recreational divers to take up to 20 gallons of purple sea urchins a day from the waters off Sonoma and Mendocino Counties to see if that would help in the recovery of the bull kelp and abalone. (In one case, experienced divers used a vacuum device to suck the creatures from the ocean floor.)...

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