In my other life I work as the Archivist for the La Jolla Historical Society. Today I was reading over some transcripts of oral histories recorded in the 1980′s and I found one for Al Frolich. Mr. Frolich talked about the joys of growing up in the seaside village of La Jolla in the 1920′s. Most of his time, it seems, was spent ditching school and hunting, or ditching school and fishing, or the time he and his buddy Jim ditched school and went cliff diving. One of the major themes in Al’s memory was, well beside ditching school, was how easy it was to hunt abalone.
First I don’t know why it’s always called hunting. It’s not like the abalone are going to bolt and stampede or that a vicious rogue stray might sneak up behind and stomp you.
Secondly what struck me was how easy it was to get abalone. Al describes days spent climbing over the rocks at low tide filling his sack with abalone. The coast was wild with them, he said and in the aftermath of a particularly nasty storm Al and his friend collected and then passed along to their friends, 50 to 75 abalone they found floating in the tide.
50 to 75 abalone. Compare that to part of the 2008 California Dept. of Fish and Game regulations concerning Abalone
Red abalone may be taken from April 1 through June 30; and from Aug. 1 through Nov. 30 in California’s waters north of San Francisco. The sport fishery is closed in July to allow abalone a recovery period during this traditionally high-take period.
The daily bag limit is three per day, with a maximum of 24 abalone per year.
Abalone taken must measure at least 7 inches in diameter.
Abalone may only be taken by hand or by abalone irons. Scuba gear and surface-supplied air are prohibited.
Free divers and shore pickers (16 years or older) must possess a valid sport fishing license. Abalone report cards are required by everyone fishing for or taking abalone.
Report cards are required on all abalone fishing days, including the two free fishing days, June 7 and Sept. 27.
So who cares about a bunch of ugly sea snails whose only real value is their tasty meat and shells that make great ashtrays?
Hmm, good question. If you ask the experts what happened to abalone they talk about overfishing especially (illegal harvesting), disease, being too tasty to predators, and loss of habitat. Most of that seems natural right? Well if you look at it from the abalones point of view (Do they have eyes?) Okay, if you consider their feelings, they would probably mention overfishing as the main cause. See if there are less abalone overall and what’s left is crammed into smaller spaces where the water may not be as healthy as it once was, then yeah you’re more prone to disease. (Just ask any parent with small children) Oh, and the predators eating you and your young, aren’t eating less just to be nice to you. They only care about their survival. Wow this sounds more like Wall Street every second.
So what’s the point? The point is I need to get in a blatant plug for the Ocean Champions before we go to the polls. So, before you vote think of the plight of the oceans and the abalone, then cast your vote for the candidates who will help protect and repair our oceans. If you won’t help the abalone, at least do it for their babies.