May 25, 2020 #1 Local News, Forum, Information and Event Source for Venice Beach, California.

Bringing Back Abalone to Santa Monica Bay

Once thriving marine snail under threat.

By Brianna Kwasnik

Venice, despite being a beachside town, is not known for its fresh seafood but this was not always the case. There was once a time when freedivers and scuba-divers would collect abalone in the waters of Santa Monica Bay and sell them to local restaurants.

Deep in the crevices of the rocks on the reefs live Abalone, a common name for a group of small to very large sea snails. The Santa Monica Bay was once thriving with seven different species: red, pink, green, white, black, pinto and flat. However, according to The Bay Foundation, due to severe over-harvesting and a disease called withering syndrome, the species have been on the decline since the late 90’s.

The abalone have a vital role in the marine ecosystem, as they have predators that feed off them. They are herbivores and feed off drift algae, which frees up space for other types of algae to live in the reefs, researcher and Cal State Fullerton graduate student, Marissa Velarde Wu said.

Marine Biologist Nancy Caruso works with large green abalone and out-planting them to restore their numbers.

“Abalone was as iconic [in Southern California] as lobster is in Maine, so you could get them in virtually every restaurant in a beach town,” Caruso said on KPCC’s “Take Two” podcast. “They taste really good, so they were doomed as soon as humans started liking them.” 

The Bay Foundation is an organization that has been actively working to restore the abalone to the Santa Monica Bay since 2010. This work includes scientific monitoring, extensive research, deck spawning and outplanting.

People used to go down to the tide to collect them recreationally to barbecue. The shells have also commonly been used for decoration or using the mother of pearl found inside the shell for jewelry, art pieces or fishing hooks.

They may not look like what you would typically think of when you think of a snail. The shell of the abalone varies depending on the species. Their shape can be oval or round, highly arched or flat.

According to the Fish and Game Code, in the state of California, is illegal to take, possess, or land abalone for commercial or recreational purposes. Fishing licenses for abalone are reserved for researchers or aquaculturists intending to collect abalone for broodstock.

You may still find abalone listed on a seafood menu, as there are aquaculture farms in the area that provide it to restaurants.

“Overall, it’s a good idea to know where your seafood comes from,”  Velarde Wu said. “If you see red abalone in a tank and they’re selling them, find out where it comes from. As a consumer, you’re allowed to ask these things.”

The stores are accountable, and consumers can decide whether or not they want to shop at a given location based on their sustainability record, Velarde Wu explained.

“People have a big impact on restaurants and what they serve you,” Velarde Wu said.

The white and black species of abalone are currently both considered endangered, while the rest are either threatened or labeled species of concern.

The Bay Foundation amped up their efforts for abalone restoration in 2016, creating an abalone research lab at the Southern California Marine Institute in San Pedro. In the lab, they currently have the red and green species. They have been growing juveniles, so they can out-plant them.

Heather Burdick, marine programs manager at TBF said they are soon hoping to bring in the endangered white abalone species. They have been searching for the best habitats in the Palos Verdes Peninsula to out-plant them back into the wild and increase the populations in our area.

A large portion of the kelp forests have been decimated by purple urchins, Burdick said. They attack the kelp plant and eat it from the bottom. While abalone also feed on kelp, they wait in crevices of the rocks, waiting for kelp to come by. Burdick said they’re not as devastating to the kelp as the urchins are, and having abalone on our reefs can help to make them more sustainable.

“Be mindful of where you’re stepping,” Burdick cautioned “they only live on rocky areas, but if you’re out tide pooling, there’s a chance there could be abalone on the rocks.”

She recommends divers and beach-goers tread lightly in tide pools.

To learn more about The Bay Foundation and their abalone restoration efforts, you can visit santamonicabay.org.

Related Posts

Venice Beach Bike Path Reopens

May 21, 2020

May 21, 2020 1

Supervisors Janice Hahn, Sheila Kuehl announce opening in Facebook posts By Sam Catanzaro The beach bike path is now reopened,...

Bonin Proposes Housing Plan for Penmar Encampment

May 21, 2020

May 21, 2020 1

Councilmember calls encampment “a perfect example of the city’s failed policies” By Sam Catanzaro Councilmember Mike Bonin has submitted a...

When Will Los Angeles Fully Reopen?

May 19, 2020

May 19, 2020 1

County: 3/4 of unemployment claims are from those making less than $50,000 By Sam Catanzaro Los Angeles County officials are...

Video: Westside MLB Brothers Give Back

May 18, 2020

May 18, 2020 2

Two Westside brothers, both professional baseball players, are giving back to local first responders COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more in this...

Missing Venice Beach Swimmer Reportedly Former WWE Star

May 18, 2020

May 18, 2020 1

Lifeguards continue search for swimmer who went missing Sunday afternoon By Sam Catanzaro A missing swimmer who lifeguards continue to...

Venice Beach Swimmer Missing

May 18, 2020

May 18, 2020 1

10-year-old boy rescued, father still missing By Sam Catanzaro A 10-year-old swimmer was rescued by lifeguards at Venice Beach Sunday...

Fatal Venice Beach Boardwalk Stabbing

May 17, 2020

May 17, 2020 1

Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) investigating Saturday night stabbing By Sam Catanzaro A man was fatally stabbed Saturday night on...

Interview: Mike Bonin Talks Homelessness, COVID-19 and More

May 15, 2020

May 15, 2020 1

Los Angeles City Councilmember Mike Bonin answers questions from the community covering Venice homeless encampments, affordable housing, COVID-19 and more.

Video: Affordable Housing Redesign

May 14, 2020

May 14, 2020

Design changes could be coming to an affordable housing project in Venice. Learn more in this video made possible by School...

Beaches Reopen

May 11, 2020

May 11, 2020

Los Angeles County’s four-phase reopening By Sam Catanzaro Los Angeles County has reopened beaches, but slowly with restrictions in place...

Ask Councilmember Mike Bonin a Question

May 7, 2020

May 7, 2020

Yo! Venice to sit down for interview with Councilmember Mike Bonin Next week Yo! Venice will sit down for a...