Fish and Game Commission Votes to Close Abalone Fishery in Sonoma County

Media Contact:
Jordan Traverso, DFG Communications, (916) 654-9937

The California Fish and Game Commission (Commission) today took emergency action to close the abalone fishery along part of the northern California coast. Specifically, the Commission voted 3-0 to close the fishery in the entirety of Sonoma County. Commissioners Daniel Richards and Richard Rogers were not in attendance.

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.

DFG is assessing the impact of the situation and provided the Commission with information at today’s meeting.

Reports of dead abalone and a variety of 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 collected abalone, mussels and water samples since the beginning and are continuing to document reports from the public. The public is encouraged to report the location, number and date of dead or dying abalone to Ian Taniguchi at (562) 342-7182 or by e-mail at itaniguchi@dfg.ca.gov.

Divers are encouraged to avoid diving in the affected areas. The exact implementation date of the emergency closure will be determined by the regulatory process and is expected soon. Please continue to check the Commission’s website at www.fgc.ca.gov.

Abalone fishermen are advised to contact a physician immediately if they feel 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.

For more information, please refer to DFG’s Sept. 2 press release, http://cdfgnews.wordpress.com/2011/09/02/abalone-die-off-observed-in-sonoma-county/.