[MARINE_BIOLOGY_INTERNATIONAL] Abalone season closed in California



Fish and Game Closes Abalone Season Along Sonoma Coast
Commission takes emergency action in response to recent die-off coinciding with red tides and calm ocean conditions.
By Kristine Wong

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The California Fish and Game Commission voted unanimously today to approve an emergency closure of the abalone season along the Sonoma County coast.

The action was initiated in response to a die-off of abalone and other invertebrates along the county coastline that began on August 27, according to the state Department of Fish and Game.

Agency officials said that the exact day the closure will take effect has not been decided as of yet, as the date will be determined by the regulatory process. The commission expects to release the emergency closure date "soon," according to Fish and Game, and will make the announcement on its website.

Fish and Game biologists said that though exact reasons for the die-off are not known, the rise in deaths coincided with a local red tide bloom and calm ocean conditions known to respectively create toxic conditions and a lack of oxygen among the invertebrate population.

Die-offs in previous years in Northern California have also been associated with similar conditions, the biologists said.

The deaths have been observed along Sonoma County's beaches and coves in Bodega Bay, Russian Gulch, Fort Ross, Timber Cove and Salt Point State Park, according to Fish and Game. Deaths have also been documented as as far north as Anchor Bay in Mendocino County, the agency said.

While the agency does not have a current estimate as to how many abalone and other invertebrates have been affected, they did disclose today that the magnitude seen in this year's die-off is greater than in past years along the Northern California Coast.

Earlier this week, Fish and Game announced that agency divers had been deployed to conduct a visual transect survey of the ocean floor in the area to determine how many abalone and other invertebrates have been affected in the die-off.

The three commissioners in attendance voted unanimously to close the season. Commissioners Daniel Richards and Richard Rogers were not present at the meeting.

Fish and Game asks the public to continue reporting any dead (or dying) abalone or other invertebrates such as starfish or mussels to Ian Taniguchi at (562) 342-7182 or by e-mail at itaniguchi@dfg.ca.gov. Reports should include the location, number and date of dead or dying invertebrates, along with type of invertebrate.

Abalone fishermen who feel sick are encouraged to contact their physician and report symptoms to the county health department here.

The agency also asks that divers not make contact in the affected areas along the Sonoma Coast.

Red tide updates are posted at the California Department of Public Health's website here.

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