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» »Unlabelled » Red tide killing abalone off California

The sudden death of thousands of red abalone and other invertebrates along the Sonoma County Coast over the past few weeks has prompted state wildlife officials to propose an indefinite ban on abalone fishing while biologists search for a cause.

The California Fish and Game Commission passed an emergency order Thursday to close the only abalone fishery in the state after continued reports of dead mollusks along the shoreline and in the water in Bodega Bay, Russian Gulch, Fort Ross, Timber Cove and Salt Point State Park.

California Department of Fish and Game officials said the mass die-off was caused by an unusual and virulent red tide.

"It is an unprecedented event," said Ian Taniguchi, the senior marine biologist for fish and game. "It's definitely going to affect the fishery. It is such a significant event that it may change how we manage the overall abalone fishery in the future."

Taniguchi said the red tide, which is a large bloom of phytoplankton, suddenly appeared late last month. Abalone divers reported a dark reddish brown tide and very low visibility. On Aug. 27, huge numbers of dead abalone, urchins, starfish and gumboot chitons, an oval shaped mollusk, were strewn all over the beaches, he said.

The carnage continued at a startling pace. Tom Jahng, 39, who was diving in the Fort Ross and Timber Cove areas on Sept. 5, said he encountered the rotting carcasses of hundreds of abalone and other mollusks on the beach and lying underwater. Read More

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