Story Corps
kelp 966305 640By Marc Albert
With wild abalone populations decimated by a string of environmental setbacks, besides over-fishing. State officials reiterated Friday that recreational abalone fishing will be entirely forbidden this year. And that the fishery will remain closed least...2026.

Already under pressure, red abalone along the Sonoma coast have become even more rare after a series of events disrupted habitat. 

First, a plague practically wiped out sea stars...also known as starfish...from Baja California to Washington.Without sea stars keeping their number in check, populations of purple sea urchins saw an explosion in numbers. The urchins in turn devoured offshore kelp forests, depriving abalone of a main source of sustenance. 

“It would be analogous to us losing 95 percent of all the Redwood trees between San Francisco and the Oregon border. That’s basically what’s happened to our underwater floating kelp forests.”

Laura Rogers-Bennett, a senior environmental scientist and researcher with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife....says improving sea star numbers could be critical to giving abalone a chance to bounce back. 

But that could prove a challenge. Surviving sea stars...mainly in British Columbia and Alaska..are producing fewer eggs, raising questions about how soon they’ll return in numbers.

“I think it’s going to take a long time for the kelp forest to recover. And I think we’re going to have to enact restoration actions.”

One of the largest starfish...the sunflower sea star…is considered a threatened species. Rogers-Bennett says the Nature Conservancy and University of Washington have started attempting to breed sunflower sea stars in a controlled environment.

  • SoCo Calendar
  • Right Now
  • Weather
  • Earthquakes
  • First News
thumbnail FirstNews logoA weekday early morning podcast that offers a first look at the top local news stories and weather forecast you need to start your day.

Sonoma County news stories featuring the latest in breaking news, county government, elections, environment, cultural happenings, and updates on your communities, from Petaluma to Cloverdale, and from Sonoma to Bodega Bay, and everyplace in between.

Subscribe to the Sonoma County First News podcast through our website, the NorCal Mobile App, NPR Podcasts, NPR One, iTunes/Apple Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts. 

Read More

Northern California
Public Media Newsletter

Get the latest updates on programs and events.