Why set up an abalone Coast Watch?
The Northern, or Pinto abalone, Haliotis kamtschatkana, has
been on Canada's threatened species list since 1999. This species' recovery
depends on more than a listing in a conservation document; it requires
that the public become active participants in the abalone's recovery strategy.
A coast watch program helps where local authorities are stretched thin,
and if you consider how long our coast line is, it makes sense to help
out; the more pairs of eyes we have watching, the better.
By setting up a coast watch program in your area you are helping the
recovery of this organism. It is impossible for law enforcement officials
to be constantly on the watch everywhere. Your participation adds to the
abalone's recovery: you can make a difference!
Benefits to setting up an abalone Coast Watch.
Interested in getting
involved in marine conservation? A coast watch program is just the
ticket! This kind of program is based on the "Neibourhood
Watch" which is successfully reducing crime rates all over the world.
The benefits, besides helping conserve a threatened species, are many:
- it is a popular, and easy way to get involved in marine conservation
- gives ownership of the stewardship of local marine resources to poeple
who live there
- there can be events where coast watchers learn from the pros and each
History of abalone harvesting
Abalone has been harvested for hundreds of years. The first record of
harvesting occurred in Japan around 30 A.D. The northern abalone has been
used by the First Nations of the northwest coast for food, and the nacre
used for jewelry and decoration. The muscular foot is marketed as food
in America, Europe and Asia. All seemed well for the abalone
the introduction of SCUBA equipment in the 1960's. Instead of skin diving,
the abalone could now be collected in greater numbers, and from greater
depths, by divers using SCUBA gear. Adult abalone tend to climb to the
highest reaches of their habitat in order to spawn, and so this makes
mature, reproductive individuals easy to collect. As a result, abalone
fishing causes a decrease in recruitment; combined with an increase in
juvenile mortality and decrease in juvenile settlement, the abalone were
in for a bumpy ride.
Throughout the 1960's and 1970's, abalone stocks around
the world started to show a general trend of decline. In 1976, a market
for Canadian abalone in Japan opened up. Abalone fishing in British Columbia
peaked in 1978, at an amazing 425 tonnes! This alarming harvesting rate
triggered DFO (Fisheries and Oceans Canada) to introduce catch quotas
in order to reduce the harvest rate. By 1990, the last year abalone harvesting
was legal in B.C., the annual harvest was only 43 tonnes.
This steep decline stimulated
DFO to place a complete ban on abalone harvesting. Unfortunately, the
scarcity of abalone has driven market prices as high as $74/kg. The high
level of demand, and the accessibility of abalone, has made poaching a
major problem. Poachers even harvest juvenile abalone, further debilitating
the population's chances of regenerating. Pollution, predation, and poaching
all contribute to the continuing decrease of wild abalone stocks.
However, there may still be a future for the northern
abalone! The first abalone culture began in Japan in 1956. There have
been some attempts, and many suggestions, at starting northern abalone
cultures in British Columbia. Recently, the small community of Bamfield,
B.C. (located on the Midwest coast of Vancouver Island and home to OceanLink)
has come together with the Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre and the Huu-ay-aht
First Nation to develop a plan for a northern abalone culturing plant
in Bamfield. This project would not only provide income for the community,
through providing jobs and selling abalone, but could also be used to
abalone to repopulate wild stocks. Look for more information about the
Bamfield Abalone Project in future editions of
.The Amazing Abalone!
Click here for information about the Bamfield Abalone Project!
What can you do?
If you see someone illegally poaching abalone in British
Columbia, immediately report these actions to the Department of Fisheries
and Oceans, Canada, by calling toll-free to the Observe, Record, Report
For more information:
DFO Abalone Web site and contact information