The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is conducting an online socio-economic survey to gather data related to the 2018 closure of the northern California red abalone fishery. As a result of extreme environmental conditions, including a collapse of the kelp forest and a purple sea urchin population explosion, the Fish and Game Commission (FCG) closed the recreational red abalone fishery in northern California for the first time in 2018. A series of recent environmental events have combined into a “perfect storm” (YouTube Video) of ecological impacts that have significantly reduced red abalone populations.
The CDFW is currently developing the Red Abalone Fishery Management Plan which will determine conditions for reopening the fishery after approval by the FGC. CDFW dive surveys in 2017 covered more than 4.5 football fields of rocky reefs throughout Sonoma and Mendocino Counties and showed low stock abundances, starving abalone and high mortalities. This fishery closure may continue for many years as abalone stocks are generally slow to recover and the high numbers of purple sea urchins could remain for many years.
The spring of 2018 presents an important point in time to collect and analyze baseline social data about the impacts on the local coastal communities and to explore options to help coastal fishers and businesses adapt and cope with the closure. We propose to collect information about the social value of abalone to permitted fishers and alternative activities that would attract them to return to the area in the future (e.g., supporting similar businesses). We will examine survey results to develop and propose ways that coastal communities can continue to attract past fishers to visit their towns and support their businesses.