Growing up in Southern California in the 1950s and ’60s, I spent a lot of time going to the beach. In those days, there were hundreds of sea shells scattered along the shoreline, and a good number of them were abalone shells. The best time to collect them was right after a storm. It was then that the ocean would wash up its bounty on shore.
By the 1970s, we were seeing a lot less abalone shells… and a lot more crude oil from oil spills. Still, harvesting and selling abalone in Southern California was pretty much not restricted.
Historically, abalone has been commercially fished since the 1850s. Perhaps overfished is a better term. Up and down the California coastline, the seabeds just offshore, where the abalone lived, were stripped of a large percentage of the abalone population. In the 1950s, northern California restricted the taking of several species of abalone. Finally, in May 1997, California imposed a state-wide ban on commercial abalone harvesting and sales.
Today, there are some areas north of San Francisco Bay that allow licensed fishermen to dive for abalone. Only certain species are permitted to be harvested, only three a day, only in certain months, and only a maximum of 24 in any year.
An easier way to get abalone? Seek out the ones grown and harvested at the Abalone Farm in Cayucos, Calif. Founded in 1968, the Abalone Farm produces 100 tons of abalone meat for fine restaurants and select markets in the United States and around the world.
Mary and I had the opportunity to tour the Abalone Farm today with Brad Buckley, sales manager for the farm. Brad has been with the business since 1987, and has the long blonde hair and boyish looks that one would expect from someone who spends everyday along the California coastline.
We’ve included a couple of photos we took during the tour. For you, Dear Reader, you just need to visit their website to see videos of the farm’s operations.
And here it is: http://www.abalonefarm.com/
There are a few restaurants in the Central Coast area that offer abalone on their menus. They are listed at the website. One of my favorite places is Hoppe’s Bistro in Cayucos. They lightly sauté slices of abalone, and cover it in a creamy mango/macademia nut sauce. Yummy!