*Update: California’s Abalone Season is now closed through 2019, possibly longer – See “Learn More” below.
Abalone Season 2017 Report Cards Available Now*
Abalone season 2017 is nearing and California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is ready! For some, it’s an annual holiday period. That means time to get your abalone report cards required for any person who takes abalone. They a are now available for purchase from CDFW license sales offices, license agents and online.
Report cards are crucial in helping biologists to monitor the harvest of red abalone and to enforce daily and annual bag limits for abalone. And don’t forget that these cards must be returned to CDFW or reported online at the end of the season even if no abalone were taken.
New Regulations for 2017 Abalone Season
Definitely, take note of these two critical changes for abalone season 2017. First, regulations for California’s popular red abalone sport fishery have changed. This year’s abalone season was both shortened and the annual bag limit reduced.
New Dates for Abalone Season 2017
Get your calendars out now. Abalone season 2017 opens on May 1 rather than traditional April 1. Further, it closes October 31 rather than November 30. This means that you have only five months now to find these delectable mollusks.
Remember everyone, the new total annual bag limit is now 12!
The annual (calendar year) limit changed from 18 abalones to 12. However, as in the past, no more than nine abalones may be taken south of the boundary between Sonoma and Mendocino counties.
Reasons for the Abalone Season 2017 Changes
We know that all of you who legally pursue, cook and eat the tough-until-pounded mollusks aren’t exactly thrilled by these new changes to Abalone Season 2017. But there are serious reasons for them.
Surveys were conducted by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) counting red abalone populations in deeper waters. Results indicated this gastronomic delicacy is on the decline due to unfavorable “perfect storm” of environmental conditions.
A series of large-scale catastrophic events over the last few years caused a significant ecological impact triggering dramatic shifts in the kelp forest ecosystem on the north coast. Those environmental stressors included impacts from a toxic algae bloom off the Sonoma coast in 2011, a widespread sea star disease in 2013 that was followed by an explosion in the sea urchin population, and offshore warm water conditions that have persisted since 2014.
Decimation of Kelp Forests
Kelp beds play a key role in our north coast marine ecology. Sadly though, over the past three years, growth of kelp — a major food source for abalone – has declined significantly. While the size of kelp forest varies from year to year, the recent low levels are unprecedented.
Changes in water temperature
Our lush, dense jungles of seaweed that have provided shelter, food, and in many cases home, for many marine creatures that need cold water to thrive. In 2014, oceanographers noticed an unusual warming in the Northern Pacific–even more than could be explained by climate science. For lack of a better term, they called it the “Pacific warm blob.” Then, last year’s El Niño made the water even warmer.
Lush flowing kelp forest acts as the ocean’s rainforest providing cover and nourishment for sea creatures. Photo by Kip Evans – Published by NOAA
Unusual foraging behavior was documented near Elk in Mendocino County. A large red abalone is climbing a bare kelp stalk desperately trying to reach fronds that are not there.
photo by K. Joe
Comparison of kelp cover at four important abalone fishery sites in 2008 and 2014. Green indicates kelp canopy observed. Maps created from data collected during CDFW aerial surveys. (Data: M. Fredle)
The Rise in Population of Purple Sea Urchins
Further, dramatic increases in purple sea urchin populations have reduced the food available for abalone. Sea urchins, like abalone, depend on healthy kelp forest for nourishment. Previously this competing herbivore was kept in check by Sea Stars. Because of this many are exploring how to reclaim the kelp forests from them.
Sea Star Wasting Disease
In 2013, Sea Star Wasting Disease killed large numbers of sea stars on the West Coast of North America, from Mexico to Alaska. Sea stars are important predators of invertebrates that live in the kelp forests. The loss of these predators added another stressor that would later contribute to a sea urchin population expansion. Purple sea urchin densities are now greater than 60 times their historic density in northern California. With their uncontrolled growth, they out-compete other species, such as abalone, for space and food.
Abalone numbers have also declined in places, partly because of poachers. Gangs and syndicates take abalone out on a large scale unconcerned about law enforcement. At the cost of $125 per pound, poachers fill their sacks to supply a booming illegal restaurant trade.
Poachers not only disregard quotas but also ignore the size of the species. Most California abalones mature at between 3 and 7 years of age and may live for 35 to 54 years. It can take 12 years or more for abalone on the north coast to grow to legal size for harvest. Thus, undersized abalone has not had an opportunity to reproduce.
Further, the abalone are not able to coagulate their blood. When a diver fails to measure prior to taking the abalone off their rocky perch and damages the flesh of the animal, they are not going to recover. They are basically going to bleed to death.
*Want to Learn more?
Below are resources to help you learn more about California’s new regulations and the causes behind them.
UPDATE: California Fish and Game Commission Closes Northern California 2018 Abalone Season
Northern California 2018 Abalone Season was closed with a unanimous vote on December 7, 2017, by the California Fish and Game Commission. The commission’s decision was due to ongoing environmental conditions that have significantly impacted the abalone resource. The closure affects next year’s recreational abalone season, which was scheduled to open on April 1, 2018.
The Commission’s 4-0 decision (Commissioner Jacque Hostler-Carmesin was absent) upholds the policies of the Abalone Recovery and Management Plan, which was adopted by the Commission in December 2005. Over the past several years, the Commission has taken several actions to reduce take and shorten the season to protect abalone from the unprecedented environmental conditions.
The Commission directed the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) to work with stakeholders to deliver a new fishery management plan that includes guidance on navigating these unprecedented conditions. The Commission also directed CDFW to consider how the new fishery management plan can inform the potential reopening of some fishing opportunity for the 2019 season.
- Learn more about regulations
- Buck, T. Surveying for abalone: Fish and Game divers survey the ocean floor for the diminishing species. Outdoor California 2009 May-June: 20-25 (pdf)
- “Perfect Storm” Decimates Northern California Kelp Forests
- Scientists and Fishermen Scramble to Save Northern California’s Kelp Forests
- Abalone fishery management, including current work on a new red abalone fishery management plan
- Abalone Reproduction and Growth
- San Francisco Poachers Sentenced For Taking 59 Abalone
Diving While Staying at Sea Ranch Abalone Bay Vacation Rental
As divers and fishers of the sea ourselves, Abalone Bay was designed to be perfect for those who enjoy the sport. That’s why we have a dedicated page just for diving and fishing on our website. Our beaches are the best whether diving, fishing or just picnicking.
What You’ll Love
You’ll love that we are just a short walk to Smugglers Cove (easy staircase access) or Pebble Beach. Not only is a wetsuit drying rack available, we also have a fish cleaning station with added pegs for our diving and fishing enthusiasts!
What to Do for Non-Diver or When the Season Is Closed
But not everyone is into diving. There’s plenty to do for our guests who are unable to get into the water due to poor conditions or prefer to stay up on dry land. Hiking, exploring the other nooks and crannies are just a few examples. Learn more about what to do when dive season is closed or if you’re not a diver at all: 8 Epic Reasons You Must Visit Sea Ranch Even If You Can’t Dive for Abalone
There’ll be no need to worry about the messes afterward because in the garage you will find extra towels to help with the clean-up. We just ask that you please wash them prior to departure to avoid added housekeeping charges.
Note Sea Ranch HOA Rules
There is one very important note to be aware of while staying at Sea Ranch. All equipment MUST be stored in our courtyard for safety and compliance with Sea Ranch HOA rules. Do not hang it across the fence or outside of the courtyard.
Be sure to visit our calendar for updates to our booking calendar.