Monday, April 28, 2008

Northern California Diving for Abalone

So there seems to be more to do in Silicon Valley than just conquer the tech world and tour vineyards. It's ABALONE season! I don't exactly know what this means, but if you click on the link above, it will take you to a story in the Mercury News (Silicon Valley's Daily Planet) that will more than adequately inform you of all things abalone.

Apparently, these things are a delicacy. There are a lot of restrictions like - you can't use scuba gear! You have to just free dive (that's diver speak for just holding your breath and going to the bottom until you need to come up for air - I don't see the point, but I guess these Abalone people are into it). And get this! Standard visibility is just 5-6 feet! So basically, you can't see anything, you have no tank or reg or any way to breathe, and temperatures can be in the upper 40s! (That's Fahrenheit - 4 degrees Celsius!) You also need particular gear (including a mollusk scraper) and a sport fishing license. You're only allowed 3 per day or 24 per year, and there's a black market for these little sea critters of up to $100 per abalone. It's also pretty risky because they have to rescue about 50 people per season.

Has anyone ever done this who wants to weigh in? I love diving, but I'm not going through this for shellfish. Also, their numbers are dwindling. Here's a pretty good report on the ecological issues regarding abaolone:

www.werc.usgs.gov/ coastal/abalone.html

Thanks to that website (U.S. Gov) for the photo as well! Very educational. Also, thanks to my marine biology professor in college because I still remember that mollusks have radial symmetry (and I think they're gastropods, too!).

Hugs and fishes,
Jenny Mo

3 comments:

Psycho Solo Diver said...

Abalone used to be abundant off of California until a virus and poaching almost wiped them out South of San Francisco.

North of San Francisco there's still enough to hunt with severe restrictions and most of the time you have to free dive to 40 feet or more.

AND!... The Fish and Game know the old trick about you going free diving for abalone while your friend on the boat goes for a "leisurely" SCUBA dive.

South of San Francisco, if you are caught with abalone, you go to prison for "taking an endangered species close to extinction."

And all this for something that you have to pound to make tender enough to eat.

I see abalone on a very rare occasion off of Catalina.

BusyGirl said...

I have been Ab diving for about 6 years (lady diver). It is actually very fun - it is about the hunt. You also get to see the crazy colors of the North Coast sea creatures, yes there is color off of our coast - opalescent kelp, magenta star fish, neon blue fish, bright green eel grass, etc. And the abs themselves are yummy. We do an annual dive trip and we feed over 250 people and it is alot of fun. We are working on initiating a third generation of divers within our group. This sport is certainly not for the faint of heart - you hike in and out, usually up a vertical cliff for the best spots, and you have to find a snail and pry it off the rocks with no external air supply and possibly with little to nothing for visibility. But boy does that ab taste good later on. FYI - tip to ab divers: scrub off the black and trim. Chop the trimmings and saute with white wine, garlic, onions and a can of stewed, chopped tomatoes with chiles. Serve over white rice (I prefer Jasmine for this recipe) it is very good and you eliminate a waste of good, expensive ab.

BusyGirl said...

Forgot - you do not have to dive to 40 feet to get abs. Try 13 feet +/- on average. The deeper you go the bigger they tend to be but you can even rock-pick at minus tide.