Red and white abalone, which grow to 10 inches, are prized for their size and taste and are considered a delicacy in many parts of the world, drawing high prices, particularly in Asia. Red abalone are raised for food in hatcheries in California and elsewhere in the world. In the 1950s, red and other types of abalone were so common along the Southern California coast that abalone sandwiches used to cost about $1.50, but an abalone dinner now usually costs $50 or more at the few California restaurants that serve it. Patrick Foy, a biologist and information officer with the California Department of Fish and Game, said no decision has been made regarding reopening San Miguel Island to abalone fishing. He said the divers will count the abalone in 400 rectangular areas to gather the information needed by the Fish and Game Commission. “We are working closely with the California Abalone Association and taking as objective an approach as we can to collect this data,” Foy said. The heyday of commercial abalone fishing – from 1969 to ’77 – was like a gold rush until wildlife officials noticed the drastic population declines. Estimates of where the white-abalone population stood 30 years ago run from 2.2 million to 4.2 million, but they were placed on the endangered-species list by the National Marine Fisheries Service in May 2001 when their population along the coast was estimated at just a couple thousand. San Miguel is one of the few places off Southern California where red abalone have been able to survive and multiply on their own. The water might also have protected them from withering syndrome, a bacterial infection that is another cause of the abalone decline in Southern California. Christopher Voss, president of the California Abalone Association, said another cause of the abalone decline was the expansion of the sea otter range. Sea otters eat abalone, and the numbers of abalone remain low along parts of the central coast and in the Monterey Bay area, partly because of the sea otter population, Voss said. Whether San Miguel should be reopened to abalone fishing depends on an accurate assessment of the abalone population there, he said. “The survival of the abalone is the main objective of every step we are taking,” he said. “We want to see the abalone continue to recover. If the stock assessment is not great enough, we will not harvest. We are dedicated to enhancing the resource.” Voss said there are encouraging signs that abalone populations are also recovering on some of the other Channel Islands. Melissa Newman, the leader of the white abalone recovery team for the National Marine Fisheries Service, said pink, green, red, threaded, white, black and pinto abalone are the primary species in California, and the population of red abalone on San Miguel is likely one of the only viable populations left in Southern California. “Depending on the densities of red abalone on San Miguel, it may be a fishery can be developed that ensures the long-term viability of the red abalone and does not affect other species,” she said. Abalone fishing off Northern California has been allowed on a limited basis for years, and the abalone there are doing well, she said. But Newman said she has concerns about the San Miguel proposal. “Researchers have been monitoring it well for a relatively short period of time,” she said. “It isn’t clear how well this population will do over the long term and whether it will remain viable over the long term.” [email protected] (805) 583-7602160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! After a nine-year ban on collecting abalone anywhere along the Southern California coast, the California Fish and Game Commission is considering opening San Miguel Island to fishing for the world’s largest type of the sea mollusk. Researchers are launching an intensive five-day survey today through Thursday on the island about 55 miles off the coast from Santa Barbara to determine whether the red-abalone population there is strong enough to withstand commercial fishing. The effort is organized by the California Department of Fish and Game to help evaluate a request by the California Abalone Association to open fishing on San Miguel, where thousands of red abalone have survived and reproduced despite a drastic decline in the population elsewhere. Abalone fishing has been banned along the California coast south of San Francisco Bay since 1997, and the white abalone was placed on the endangered species list in 2001 and remains off limits everywhere. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREWhy these photogenic dumplings are popping up in Los Angeles“There’s a feeling there is a good population of red abalone (on San Miguel),” said Patrick Coulston, a supervising biologist with the Department of Fish and Game coordinating the survey. The abalone recovery and management plan the Fish and Game Commission adopted late last year called for considering the possibility of a limited fishery on San Miguel based on the notion there is a good population of abalone out there, he said. “They wanted their decision to be based on good information, which is the purpose of the survey,” he said. About 50 divers will conduct the survey, with about one-third of them affiliated with the California Abalone Association, which advocates commercial fishing of abalone there, Coulston said. Whether the state winds up sanctioning commercial or recreational fishing, or both, depends on the survey findings and what the Fish and Game Commission decides. Red abalone, which can grow to be 12 inches in diameter, are the world’s largest type of abalone and are native only to the Pacific Coast from Oregon down the California coast to Mexico.
Contributing to Warner’s first place finish was the giant-screen Imax version of “Happy Feet,” responsible for $2.4 million of the movie’s total gross and giving Imax its biggest animated movie opening ever. Sony Pictures Entertainment, which released “Casino Royale,” seemed content with second place given the film’s 2 1/2 hour running time resulting in fewer showings per day. Craig’s first outing as the British secret agent is the 21st official Bond movie, the most recent of which was 2002’s “Die Another Day” which featured Pierce Brosnan as Bond for the fourth time. “Casino Royale” fell short of the $47 million opening weekend of “Die” but far exceeded Brosnan’s first outing as Bond in 1995’s “Goldeneye” ($26.2 million). “We’re ecstatic with our opening for `Casino Royale,”‘ said Rory Bruer, Sony’s president of distribution. “It’s certainly the best-reviewed Bond ever and people are just eating it up. Daniel Craig is amazing as the new James Bond and it feels like we’re not only satisfying die-hard Bond fans but creating new fans as well. “This is a fantastic start for a new Bond.” Dancing penguins stepped on the toes of the new James Bond in a battle royal of the tuxedos – proving a license to chill is better than a license to kill at the box office. The animated “Happy Feet” just pipped the new 007 opus “Casino Royale” – featuring the debut of Daniel Craig as a not-so-suave Bond – by less than $2 million. With an opening weekend gross of $42.3 million, “Happy Feet” gave Warner Bros. the biggest animated movie opening in its long history while “Casino Royale” finished a strong runner-up with a take of $40.6 million, according to studio estimates Sunday. “It was nice to win the weekend, I didn’t expect it going in,” said Warner Bros. distribution head Dan Fellman. “I think we’re extremely well-positioned to play strong through Thanksgiving and Christmas. We will be on the screen until the ice melts.” Box office analyst Paul Dergarabedian of Exhibitor Relations Co. said it is no surprise that “Happy Feet” and “Casino Royale” had a photo finish because “the movies are so closely matched in awareness and enthusiasm. Audiences had to see these movies. It was a battle royale at the box office.” But the two films combined could not match last year’s record November opening of “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” which took in $102.3 million its opening weekend the same weekend a year ago. This resulted in box office receipts for the top 12 films falling short of last year by 22 percent. Still, box office receipts have been up over 2005 figures 27 out of the last 35 weekends with year-to-date revenue up by nearly 6 percent. Falling to third place after two weekends at the top was the Sacha Baron Cohen comedy “Borat” which took in an estimated $14.35 million for an impressive three-week total of $90.5 million. It was followed by Disney’s “The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause” in fourth place with $8.2 million ($51.6 million to date) with DreamWorks’ animated “Flushed Away” rounding out the top five with a weekend take of $6.8 million ($48.8 million to date). Final box office totals will be released Monday. [email protected] (818)713-3758 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!