Target: Charlton H. Bonham, Director of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife
Goal: Communicate risks and ecological consequences of diving for the rare shellfish red abalone
Found only along the western coast of North America, the red abalone is large, rare species of mollusk. With a pearl-like inner shell and a thick red outer shell reaching up to twelve inches in diameter, the red abalone represents a trophy for hopeful divers, and its meat remains a prized delicacy. In California, hunting is permitted only north of San Francisco and only for sport. Nonetheless, the lure of catching this rare prize claims up to an estimated dozen lives a year.
Inexperienced divers can be easily caught off guard by northern California’s stealthy but powerful riptides. Other divers have fallen off steep cliffs to their deaths, and out of the water, most deaths are due to heart attacks, triggered by any number of stressors such as ill weather conditions initially unnoticed by those with little practice. Usually wearing weighted belts to help them remain underwater for the dive, inexperienced divers may panic faced with sudden danger and become overwhelmed. Important to note is that red abalone diving ultimately requires no experience. As air tanks are illegal, basically anyone with basic diving equipment may choose to risk their lives in treacherous waters in search of the prized mollusk.
Strict regulations on caught abalone have helped maintain red abalone populations, but education has yet to match conservation. By signing the petition below, you can encourage greater efforts on the part of local and California state governments to educate would-be divers on the ecological significance of the iconic red abalone and how to keep themselves safe in their pursuit of it.
Dear Director Bonham,
I am writing in regards to the dangerous sport of red abalone hunting. Prized for its giant size, meat and beautiful shell, the red abalone is a magnificent trophy for divers. Yet, for those lacking in experience, perhaps unused to the rough, murky waters and the physical challenge of diving with minimal equipment, the dive can quickly turn perilous. The sport claims up to a dozen lives a year, and local lifeguards have actually come to expect deaths during diving season.
While your department’s efforts at conservation including restrictions on hunting and anti-poaching activities have helped maintain red abalone populations, the true perils of the sport must be made transparent to those who would endanger themselves unknowingly. I urge you to lead the way in educating would-be divers on the red abalone. One could start by raising awareness about the environment in which the mollusks live, one that by posing great risks to the inexperienced merits a healthy respect from those who would dive in its waters. Your leadership can help more people enjoy this unique sport safely.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Maangit via Wikimedia Commons