Northern California red abalone fishery to stay closed at least through 2026

The state closed the fishery in 2017 and in December extended the closure until 2026.|

Divers and tidepool pickers are being reminded that the Northern California’s red abalone fishery will remain closed for the next five years — extending a ban that went into effect three years ago.

Spring is normally the start of the recreational season centered on the Sonoma and Mendocino coast, but red abalone stocks continue to be affected by diminished reproduction and the collapse of bull kelp forest, their primary food, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife said in a statement.

The state Fish and Game Commission approved the current closure in 2017 and it went into effect in early 2018. In December, the commission extended the closure until April 1, 2026.

The department said large-scale conditions that led to depressed abalone stocks include a massive marine heat wave and El Niño in 2014-2016, extinction of the local population of sunflower sea stars due to disease and the expansion of the purple sea urchin population.

“The result was a major shift from a robust healthy bull kelp forest ecosystem to one dominated by sea urchins with little kelp or other algae,” the department said. “Such conditions lead to starvation and mass mortalities of abalone, which need kelp to survive.”

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