The California Fish and Game Commission took emergency action Thursday and voted to close the abalone season along the entire Sonoma County coastline because of a recent die-off of the mollusks.
This action was taken in the wake of confirmed reports of dead red abalone and a variety of invertebrates on beaches and inside coves along the northern California coast. Reports have come from Bodega Bay, Russian Gulch, Fort Ross, Timber Cove and Salt Point State Park, and as far north as Anchor Bay in Mendocino County.
The implementation date of the closure has not yet been determined but is expected soon, though divers are encouraged to avoid diving in the affected areas immediately.
The first reports of the die-off began Aug. 27 and is believed to be the result of a red tide-induced poisoning and/or lack of oxygen. According to California Department of Fish and Game biologists, these abalone deaths coincided with a local red tide bloom and calm ocean conditions and though the exact reasons for the recent deaths are not known, invertebrate die-offs have occurred in the past along the northern California coast when similar weather and bloom conditions existed.
The number of dead and dying abalone has not yet been ascertained, though DFG divers are assessing the damage. Other DFG biologists and game wardens have collected abalone, mussels and water samples since the first reports came in and are continuing to document reported incidents from the public.
Abalone fishermen are advised to contact a physician immediately if they feel sick, and to report symptoms to the local county health department.
The public is also encouraged to report the location, number and date of dead or dying abalone to Ian Taniguchi at (562) 342-7182 or by e-mail. The latest red tide updates from the California Department of Public Health are also posted online.
Photo: A healthy live red abalone. Credit: Derek Stein / California Department of Fish and Game