Pacific Shellfish Deaths Harm Campground Business

September 14, 2011 by · Comments Off on Pacific Shellfish Deaths Harm Campground Business 

Ocean Cove Campground overlooks the Pacific Ocean.

The mysterious deaths of untold numbers of shellfish along California’s Sonoma Coast may mean a sudden end to the county’s abalone season.

State regulators are meeting Thursday (Sept. 15) to consider an emergency response to the widespread damage caused by an explosion of plankton that bloomed in local waters at the end of August, the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat reported.

Scientists aren’t sure if the so-called red tide poisoned or suffocated the shellfish. But either way, dead abalone, sea stars, primitive mollusks called chitons and other animals began washing up around Aug. 27 in numbers that stunned observers.Abalone are a prized North Coast delicacy with their harvesting prohibited south of the Golden Gate. Mendocino and Sonoma counties account for more than 95 percent of the state abalone catch.

“It would be devastating to my business and to campgrounds like Ocean Cove,” said Brenda Verno, who rents trailer space to weekend divers and who charges $8 for people to use her boat ramp at Timber Cove.

At Ocean Cove, a private campground and store, abalone is such a vital source of business that the campground closes from Dec. 1 to April 1, exactly when abalone is out of season.