The abalone fishery along the California coast of Sonoma County is officially closed effective immediately. The abalone season remains open in the rest of the northern California coastal counties (Marin, Mendocino, Humboldt and Del Norte).
On Oct. 4, the Office of Administrative Law approved the emergency regulations for an abalone closure on the Sonoma County coast. The regulations became effective upon filing with the Secretary of State at 2:42 p.m.
On Sept. 15, the California Fish and Game Commission voted to close the fishery. This action was taken in the wake of confirmed reports of dead red abalone and other invertebrates on beaches and inside coves along the coast in these areas.
Data continue to be collected that shows an abalone die-off along the Sonoma coast beginning Aug. 27. According to Department of Fish and Game (DFG) biologists, these abalone deaths coincided with a local red tide bloom and calm ocean conditions. Although the exact reasons for the abalone deaths are not known, invertebrate die-offs have occurred in the past along the northern California coast due to lack of oxygen and/or poisoning when similar weather and bloom conditions existed but not at the magnitude of this event.
Reports of dead abalone and a variety of other invertebrates have come from Bodega Bay, Russian Gulch, Fort Ross, Timber Cove and Salt Point State Park in Sonoma County and as far north as Anchor Bay in Mendocino County. Other DFG biologists and game wardens have been collecting abalone, mussels and water samples since the problem started and are continuing to document reports from the public. The public is encouraged to report the location, date, and number of dead or dying abalone to Ian Taniguchi at (562) 342-7182 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Divers are encouraged to avoid diving in the affected areas and cannot take abalone. Take is defined in Section 86 of the Fish and Game Code as “hunt, pursue, catch, capture, or kill, or attempt to hunt, pursue, catch, capture, or kill.”
Abalone fishermen are advised to contact a physician immediately if they become sick, and to report symptoms to the local county health department (www.sonoma-county.org/health/about/publichealth.asp). The latest red tide updates from the California Department of Public Health are also posted online at www.cdph.ca.gov/programs/Pages/DDWEM.aspx.