California bans recreational abalone diving

California's abalone, once thought to be bouncing back from astounding levels of over-fishing, are again in trouble. Environmental conditions have led to mass starvation and are dramatically reducing this beloved sea delicacies chances of survival. In response the already limited recreational fishing season will be cancelled.

Via CA Diver:

By a unanimous vote of the California Fish and Game Commission, the abalone fishery on California's North Coast will be closed next year. The decision came as the Nature Conservancy and avid divers were desperately looking for a way to save the season.

Fish and Game Commissioners made the decision Thursday in San Diego. Their decisions were based on evidence of mass starvation and mortality among red abalone over the past several years. According to several studies, over the past three years the growth of kelp — a major food source for abalone – has declined significantly, and a dramatic increase in the population of purple sea urchins have competed for the remaining kelp with the abalone.

Ongoing surveys at 10 popular diving sites on the Sonoma and Mendocino coasts suggest density has declined by an average 65 percent this year compared with years past, according to Fish and Wildlife data. An estimated 25 percent of the red abalone found in the surveyed area were starving, and between 22 percent and 67 percent of abalone in the water were found dead at the survey sites, said Sonke Mastrup, environmental program manager at the Department of Fish and Wildlife.