In the US News article California Cuts Abalone Catch, Eliminates 2 Diving Months they tell us why California wildlife managers cut the yearly limit on abalone you can catch and shortened up the diving season. The reason for this is because of the decreasing population of kelp. Kelp is important when it comes to ab diving and this has also affected the number of mollusks divers are allowed to catch every year. This is because kelp is one of the abalone main food source. For this upcoming diving year, no one can dive for abalone from April to June and August until November. The number of abalone you can catch also has been limited and you can only catch 12 a season instead of 18 which used to be the limit.
They say this decreased limit of abalone you can catch will reduce the next years harvest by 25%. Jerry Kashiwada who is the Department of Fish and Wildlife environmental scientist said that this upcoming dive season will be the first one since 1921 that red abalone are illegal to be caught. The reason it will be illegal to dive for the red abalone this season is because the red abalone population are also having a hard time surviving because of the decrease in population of kelp. The kelp is the red abalone main source of food just like the mollusks. The reason the kelp population has been decreasing is because of a toxic algae bloom around the Sonoma Coast in 2011 and a disease that was spread widely in sea stars in 2013. The warmer water situation going on in the water that has been an issue since 2014 is another big reason the kelp population is dying off.
The size of the abalone being caught has also started shrinking. Abalone divers are starting to notice that the conditions stated above leading to kelp issues is also some of the issues leading to the abalone caught being 25% smaller than the normal one. There are also many findings of washed up abalone on shore due to the fact that the kelp population is decreasing which means the abalone are not eating as much as they normally would. The abalone wash up because they have become so weak from the lack of food (kelp) they are eating. The officials at the Department of Fish and Wildlife think that making this decrease in the amount of abalone that can be caught will help fix the issue going on. Last year when the Department of Fish and Wildlife did a study about abalone diving they found that there are about 31,000 abalone divers in California alone. This would mean last year if every diver limited out they would have caught 558,000 abalone. With the new limit, 186,000 less abalone being caught might just make a huge difference in solving this issue.