December 15, 2015

Black abalone at the Channel Islands

The beauty of sailing out to Catalina Island (and the more remote Channel Islands) is that you get a chance to see the marine intertidal community of Southern California in the absence of heavy development and pollution.

Even out snorkeling near Avalon on Catalina, you can see a noticeably healthy marine community.

the casino at Avalon, Catalina Island

Upon my last quick boat trip out to the Channel Islands - Jess and I took special notice of the abundant abalone tucked into seams along the sandstone reefs. We found the healthiest populations along the windward side of the islands. And of course, this goes without saying - if you see them - leave them be, as they are heavily protected. Harvesting is illegal in Southern California.

sailing Dave's Endeavor 38 across the channel

Black abalone (Haliotis cracherodii) is a marine gastropod - specifically a mollusk.

This mollusk has a smooth dark shell. As you see in the pictures below, the outer shell often looks blue.

At one point, this species was abundant all across the west coast of North America, but it is now listed as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List.

Overfishing and Withering Syndrome have led to its demise.

Black abalone hanging upside down at low tide

Gorgeous black abalone gather in clumps. This is because they reproduce as broadcast spawners. They release their egg and sperm into the water at high tide. If they aren't packed in tight to each other, their gametes may not find each other.

healthy abalone in the Channel Islands