Update 9/15: The California Fish and Game Commission voted 3-0 today to take emergency action and close the abalone season along the Sonoma Coast. Click for the full story reported by Half Moon Bay Patch.
In the wake of the recent that took place among abalone, sea star and other invertebrates along the Sonoma Coast, the California Fish and Game Commission will consider taking emergency action on Thursday to close the abalone fishery in the area.
Deaths have been reported from beaches and inside coves in Bodega Bay, Russian Gulch, Fort Ross, Timber Cove and Salt Point State Park.
According to Fish and Game, the die-off was triggered on Aug. 27 due to poisoning induced by red tides, along with a lack of oxygen. Though biologists do not know exactly why the deaths occurred, they say that the combination of calm ocean conditions and the presence of a red tide bloom have coincided with similar die-offs in the past — and that both factors were present during this year's die-off as well.
Biologists have ruled out the possibility that the abalone disease Withering Syndrome is responsible for the deaths, due to the fact that other invertebrates have been affected, and that the abalone have not appeared to be withered. Withering Syndrome has been associated with previous die-offs in both Central and Southern California.
Though it is not currently known just how many deaths have taken place, Fish and Game is attempting to determine the amount through underwater transect surveys.
An underwater transect survey is a visual method of surveying conducted by divers who count the organisms of interest along a measured distance and fixed width. The density of the organisms of interest can be calculated from collected data.
Agency biologists and game wardens are continuing to take reports from the public on cases of dead abalone and other invertebrates observed in the area.
Fish and Game also warns abalone fishermen to contact a physician immediately if they feel sick, as well as report symptoms to their local health department.
The public can continue to keep updated on red tides throughout California through the state Department of Public Health here.
To watch an underwatch transect survey taking place in Monterey Bay, click on the video featured in the media box at right.