October 26, 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

Two Developments with 100+ Units Underway Near Venice High School

October 25, 2020

October 25, 2020

Duo of multifamily apartments on Venice Boulevard beginning to rise By Kerry Slater Over a year after breaking ground, a...

Edify TV: Development Replacing Local Car Wash

October 25, 2020

October 25, 2020

A Sawtelle lot that once held a car wash will soon be the site of a multi-family housing development. Learn...

‘Recall Newsom’ Head Hanging From Venice Ballerina Clown

October 21, 2020

October 21, 2020

Cardboard cutout of Gov. Newsom’s head hanging from iconic Venice art installation By Sam Catanzaro A cardboard cutout painting of...

L.A. County COVID-19 Cases Partly Driven Teenagers

October 20, 2020

October 20, 2020

68 percent of new cases among people between ages of 12 and 50 By Sam Catanzaro Los Angeles County health...

Free Flu Shots at Palms Middle School for Students and Family

October 20, 2020

October 20, 2020

Los Angeles Unified and Health Net offering free vaccinations for seasonal flu to students and families By Chad Winthrop Los...

Mark Twain Middle School Community Raising Money to Restore Mural

October 19, 2020

October 19, 2020

Colorful mosaic mural in front of school in need of repair By Sam Catanzaro Mark Twain Middle School community members...

Intravenous Vitamin Therapy: A Natural, Effective Solution for the Flu

October 19, 2020

October 19, 2020

By Dr. Mahboubeh Hashemi, ND and Dr. Matthew Cavaiola, ND  As fall and winter are fast approaching, many people, and...

Three-Story Apartment Building Planned Near Venice Canals

October 18, 2020

October 18, 2020

1940s triplex could be replaced by co-living facility By Toi Creel Plans are in the works to demolish a 1940s...

Edify TV: Deal to House Homeless People Near Freeways

October 18, 2020

October 18, 2020

After months of negotiations, the City and County of LA reached a $300 million deal to house thousands of homeless...

LADOT Resumes Parking Enforcement

October 15, 2020

October 15, 2020

The Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT) Parking Enforcement and Traffic Control (PETC) has resumed parking enforcement. Find out what...

Armed Suspect Attempting to Rob Several Local Victims

October 15, 2020

October 15, 2020

LAPD issue alert regarding series of Westside robberies Los Angeles Police Department detectives have recognized a pattern of robberies on...

Italian Restaurant Opens in Venice’s Former Chaya Space

October 15, 2020

October 15, 2020

Italian restaurant Forma expands into Venice By Kerry Slater A popular Santa Monica Italian restaurant has moved into space formerly...

Edify TV: Penmar Golf Homeless Encampment Update

October 15, 2020

October 15, 2020

The City of Los Angeles has taken new action in an effort to deal with a homeless encampment along Penmar...

Michelin Pauses 2020 California Guide

October 15, 2020

October 15, 2020

Restaurant guide says COVID-19 and wildfires forced decision By Kerry Slater The Michelin Guide has paused the announcement of stars...