Abalone diving season is off to a hazardous start in California

Abalone diving in California is dangerous. Every year a few people die trying to pry these mollusks from the sea. This year's abalone season appears off to a rough start, as a number of divers needed rescue along the Sonoma Coast.

From a story at the Press Democrat:


At least two of the four people retrieved from close-call situations were confirmed abalone divers, and another pair were scuba diving with spear guns and other heavy equipment when they were pummeled by waves and then sucked out by a rip tide, State Parks lifeguard Nate Buck said.

"All were close calls," Buck said. "They maybe lose their gear, but they learned their lesson: Don't dive when the conditions are hazardous."

Hundreds of people of varying abilities come to the coast each year to hunt for red abalone, a prized mollusk with buttery meat. Hunting for abalone is highly regulated to preserve its population. Abalone divers enter the water with wetsuits, weighted belts, a pry bar and little else.

The most experienced divers know to wait for calm days on the water and cancel their plans if the surf looks at all menacing, Buck said.

Last year, at least eight people died off the Sonoma and Mendocino coasts while in pursuit of abalone.

The story of abalone in California over the last 100 years is pretty interesting. Massive over fishing of these once plentiful creatures nearly drove them to extinction. Nature's incredible ability to rebound is bringing them back–even in Southern California, where they were thought to be gone forever.

Interior of red abalone. [photo: Wikimedia]

Interior of red abalone. [photo: Wikimedia]