An abalone diver apparently drowned off Sea Ranch on Friday afternoon, the sixth person to die in pursuit of the mollusk on the North Coast this year.

The victim?s identity was not available.

Sonoma County Sheriff?s Department and Cal Fire emergency crews responded to a report of an abalone diver unconscious and without a pulse about 4 p.m. Later, the Sonoma County coroner was called out to the scene.

Reports indicated the diver may have become separated from his two diving buddies and was missing before friends found him and pulled him from the water.

The three men were diving off Galleons Reach, about 5? miles north of Stewarts Point, sheriff?s officials said.

The drowning was the sixth on the North Coast this year related to abalone diving.

Three of the drownings have been in Sonoma County, and three were in Mendocino County.

Last year, seven abalone divers drowned in ocean waters along the region?s coastline.

Abalone is a prized catch that draws divers from the Bay Area, Central Valley and elsewhere beyond the North Coast.

Abalone can be taken during two seasons. The first runs April 1 through June 30, and the second season from Aug. 1 through Nov. 30.

Staff Writer Michael Coit contributed to this report. You can reach Staff Writer Laura Norton at 521-5220 or