Red Fish, Blue Fish

California Fish and Game commissioners voted unanimously to
adopt a new abalone recovery and management plan calling for the
possible reopening of a limited commercial and recreational red
abalone fishery off San Miguel Island. The decision was made
despite recommendations from state biologists that such a move
could undo population progress made by abalone since the commercial
fishery was closed in 1997. Beginning in the 1940s, recreational
and commercial divers fished the California abalone population so
aggressively that scientists have characterized it as “serial

The popular pink abalone — once the most abundant — were
virtually wiped out, followed by the green, red, black, and white
abs. Disease and pollution further decimated the rest; today the
once abundant shellfish is a rarity in southern waters, though red
abalone are still legally taken by recreational skin divers in
Northern California. Currently, illegally poached abalone, highly
regarded as a delicacy and aphrodisiac, fetch up to $100 apiece on
the black market. According to Fish and Game abalone plan
coordinator Ian Taniguchi, implementation of the abalone fishery is
at least a year or two away, as extensive research and public
comment would be necessary as well. Taniguchi added that should the
fishery reopen as planned, permits would only be given to those who
possessed working permits in 1997.


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