The red abalone has been a staple of California fisheries and markets for decades. The glossy, mother-of-pearl shells can be found strung up on local fences, and their tender meat is a seafood delicacy. But naturally occurring diseases, climate change and habitats crowded by invasive purple urchins have contributed to massive declines in the populations of this unique California species. As abalone become more scarce, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife have enforced hefty regulations to limit the removal of abalone from the wild. Commercial fisheries have been closed since the 1990s, and a ban on recreational abalone diving is now in place through 2021.
The loss of the red abalone is not just a blow to the kelp forest ecosystem, but also to the sense of California’s coastal identity. Scientists, fishermen, divers and long-time residents recognize the abalone’s cultural significance and are working to ensure their survival.
Watch the film above to learn more about how the community is responding to the abalone decline.