Abalone: San Miguel Island

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Abalones on San Miguel Island.

Abalone: San Miguel Island

In the News~

December 27, 1875 [SBDN]: “The sloop New Wonder came over from San Miguel Island yesterday and brought 53 sacks of abalones.”

April 7, 1876 [SBDN]: “Yesterday morning the schooner Alma from San Miguel Island arrived bringing 20 sacks of abalones. She was en route for San Francisco, but being blown far out of her course put in at this place.”

October 15, 1877 [SBDP]: “The schooner Reliance will leave port this evening for the Island of San Miguel. She takes over a number of Chinamen who are employed in the abalone fishing trade, together with their boat and utensils. The boat, which has been built up town, was hauled down to the wharf on a dray.”

June 3, 1878 [SBDP]: “The Rogers Brothers & Company seal-hunting expedition to San Miguel Island has but just commenced operations. Seals are reported as numerous, but not heretofore in condition to kill. During otherwise idle moments the party has been gathering abalone shells, of which they have found in goodly quantity.”

June 22, 1878 [SBDP]: “The little schooner H. W. Almy arrived in port this morning, having made since the 14th instant a complete tour of all the islands lying off Santa Barbara. Small as she is, the Almy is enough like her energetic owner, Captain Mullett, not to half do anything, and so she comes back laden with seal oil and abalone shells gathered by the two parties sent out by Captain Mullett some time since… Among other places Captain Mullett stopped at San Miguel and interviewed Fred Forbush, who has charge of the Rogers Brothers sealing expedition, which was fitted out here some time ago. Fred, it is said, takes off his hat and sits on it every time he tells of the San Diego expedition getting ahead of him, and taking up quarters on Flea Island, where the seals most do congregate. He has done better than they have, however, for besides fifteen barrels of oil, he has gathered a quantity of abalone shells, while the San Diego party has only fifty barrels of oil…”

July 16, 1878 [SBDP]: “The Star of Freedom arrived from San Miguel Island last evening. She brought over Fred Forbush’s sealing party and the following freight consigned to E. F. Rogers: 1200 gallons of seal oil, 35 barrels and 60 sacks of an excellent quality of abalone shells.”

August 14, 1878 [SBDP]: “The schooner Surprise from San Miguel Island arrived in port this afternoon with five tons of abalone shells for Rogers Brothers & Company.”

October 19, 1878 [SBDP]: “The schooner Alma got in during the night from San Miguel, with 16 sacks of wool and 40 sacks of shells.”

November 5, 1879 [SBWP]: “The schooner Surprise is preparing for a trip to San Miguel Island for abalones and bilge water.”

January 12, 1880 [SBDP]: “The schooner Surprise left yesterday for San Miguel Island with eight calves for Mr. Mills and a large cargo of supplies for the abalone hunters.”

February 18, 1880 [SBDP]: “The schooner Surprise came in from San Miguel Island on Monday evening, bringing the rigging of the wrecked schooner N. B. The sea was rough about the island, and she had difficulty in landing the party of seal hunters which she took over for Rogers. She got out right quick. She left for San Nicolas Island this morning on a shell hunting trip.”

February 26, 1880 [SBDP]: “The schooner Surprise arrived from San Nicolas Island this morning and discharged 100 sacks of abalone shells and meat. She will depart tomorrow for San Miguel Island for seal oil and skins.”

March 4, 1880 [SBDP]: “The schooner Surprise, under Captain Smith, arrived last night from San Miguel Island, discharged 65 sacks of abalone shell, 14 sacks of meat, 119 seal skins, 7 barrels of seal oil, 1 barrel of intestines.”

March 12, 1883 [SBDP]: “The Convoy has on board 250 sacks of abalones and shells from San Nicolas Island. Larco’s schooner is also in port with a cargo of abalone shells, seal skins and otter skins from San Miguel Island.”

March 17, 1883 [SBWP]: “Several schooners arrived in the channel Saturday and are now anchored near the wharf. The Convoy has on board 250 sacks of abalones and shells from San Nicolas Island, Larco’s schooner is also in port with a cargo of abalone shells, seal skins and otter skins from San Miguel Island...”

July 9, 1883 [SBDI]: “Captain Sam Burtis, his son, and Antonio Cavalleri, came over from San Miguel Island last Saturday, after a two months hunting and cruising trip. Larco brought them over and also their cargo, secured while away. This consisted of eleven barrels of seal oil, almost three tons of skins, a quantity of abalone shells and dried fish besides fifteen fine large sea otters. The value of the otters is about $900. The captain and his party were unusually successful this time, and had a most enjoyable trip throughout besides.”

August 7, 1883 [ODNY]: “Captain A. Larco, a California fisherman, recently made an extensive cruise along the coast… He had undertaken the contract to provision four seal-fishing stations on Santa Cruz and San Miguel islands… At one place Captain Larco found a colony of Chinamen engaged in gathering abalones and catching and drying rock cod and bluefish for shipment to China. They have accumulated several tons of dried fish and will soon have a load for a schooner…”

October 27, 1883 [SBDI]: “Abalones. A peculiar article of commerce of Southern California. An odd source of wealth… Parties of Chinese fishermen were on the various Channel Islands most of the year. Messrs. Rogers and Brothers of this city sent out today for San Miguel, a party of five men for abalone, seal skins and oil. The number of abalone to be obtained by such a party is impossible to estimate. Low tide being the only time when they can be gathered and the lower the tide, the more are exposed to view… San Miguel, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, San Nicolas, Catalina and Santa Barbara Islands, all found being protective points of supply. Messrs. Rogers and Brothers of this city sent out today for San Miguel a party of five for abalones, seal skins and oil. The number of abalones to be obtained by such a party is impossible to estimate. Low tide being the only time when they can be gathered, and the lower the tide the more are exposed to view…”

November 3, 1883 [SBWI]: “The abalone business is carried on more or less along the sea shore of the semi-tropic, but at this place on the islands of the Channel the occupation is conducted, though quietly, upon larger scale than any other locality further south. The abalone is a greater success than the egg in point of natural economy, in that the shell also is materially viable. The meat is taken by the Chinamen and dried. The dried abalone is esteemed as a great dainty and is worth in San Francisco six cents per pound. It is exported from that point in large quantities to China and gourmets of that frugal people do not hesitate to pay the heavy price it commands in that Empire after first cost, freight and handling are added. The particular charm that this dried meat has for the celestial palate is not apparent to the barbarian tooth. The Independent reporter found it much resembling in consistency, color and odor a piece of veteran sole leather... San Miguel, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, San Nicolas, Anacapa, Catalina, and Santa Barbara islands are all productive points of supply. Messrs. Rogers and Brothers of this city sent out today for San Miguel a party of five for abalone, seal skins and oil. The number of abalone to be obtained by such a party is impossible to estimate, low tide being the only time when they can be gathered, and the lower the tide the more exposed to view. It would seem that the practical mind of the American should be able to find some manner of preparing this healthful article of food in a manner acceptable to the taste of white men.”

January 28, 1884 [SBDI]: “The schooner Convoy, Captain Ellis, is at San Miguel Island hunting otter, securing sea lions and gathering abalones. Due at this place within a month.”

May 5, 1884 [SBDP]: “The schooner Angel Dolly and the schooner Ocean King came in yesterday from San Miguel Island. The Ocean King takes a load of Chinese abalone gatherers to Santa Cruz Island.”

July 14, 1884 [SBDP]: “The Angel Dolly came in from San Miguel Saturday with a party of Santa Barbara boys who have been over there seal hunting. They brought over two barrels of oil, forty skins and twenty sacks of abalone shells.”

February 17, 1885 [SBDP]: “The Ocean King arrived last night from San Miguel Island, where she went to take Dr. Mills and family. The sloop brought back a few seal skins and abalones.”

July 3, 1885 [SBDI]: “The sloop Ocean King, arrived from San Miguel Island this morning with several tons of abalone shells.”

July 20, 1886 [SBDI]:Ocean King discharged yesterday 60 sacks of abalone shells and this morning left for San Miguel Island to bring over some whalers.”

April 23, 1888 [SBDI]: “The sloop Ocean King took a number of Chinamen over to San Miguel Island today. They went after abalones.”

February 25, 1891 [SBMP]: “The sloop Liberty arrived Monday night from San Miguel Island with a number of Chinamen and a large cargo of dried abalones and abalone shells. A party of otter hunters was left on the island. They will also try out a whale which is ashore there.”

March 3, 1891 [LAT]: “The sloop Liberty arrived Monday night from San Miguel Island with a number of Chinamen and a large cargo of dried abalones and abalone shells, Says the Santa Barbara Press.”

March 13, 1891 [SBMP]: “The schooner Ruby is in from San Miguel Island. She brought back a gang of Chinamen, twelve tons of dried abalones, and four tons of abalone shells.”

October 18, 1891 [LAT/SB]: “Captain Waters, with a crew of sailors and sheep shearers, returned from a several weeks’ trip to San Miguel Island in the sloop Liberty yesterday morning. The captain brought over quite a cargo of wool and abalone shells.”

July 18, 1892 [LAT/SB]: “The sloop Liberty, Captain Waters’ boat, came in from San Miguel Island late Saturday night, bringing Rogers Brothers seal outfit together with the rest of their catch. She had on board several barrels of oil, about two tons of abalone shells. They had been over on the island for about two months.”

November 5, 1892 [LAT/SB]: “The steamer Ruby came in from San Miguel Island yesterday morning bringing a load of shells...”

August 11, 1894 [LAT/SB]: “The sloop Restless has gone to San Miguel Island to bring back a party of Chinese abalone fishermen.”

October 24, 1894 [LAT/SB]: “The sloop Liberty leaves today with a party of abalone fishermen for San Miguel Island.”

November 13, 1896 [SBDN]: “Schooner Restless returns to San Miguel Island today with a lot of Chinamen who go there to gather abalone shells.”

May 25, 1897 [SBMP]: “Captain Burtis’ schooner Restless left yesterday with a gang of Chinese abalone hunters for San Miguel Island. On his return he will take a band of horses for Mr. E. Elliot to San Nicolas Island.”

January 20, 1899 [LAT/SB]: “Captain Waters, the holder of and owner of property and stock on San Miguel Island, came over in his sloop Pearl yesterday, bringing a ton of very valuable shells, some abalones and a quantity of butter for the market...”

January 27, 1899 [LAT/SB]: “The schooner Pearl came into port this morning from San Miguel Island, bringing over a ton of abalone shells. These shells are shipped to eastern factories, where they are manufactured into ornaments, buttons, etc. They bring $50 per ton here.”

April 4, 1899 [SBMP]: “The sloop Restless arrived from San Miguel Island Monday morning laden with abalones and shells. This makes a total of over 45 tons of abalones and shells now stored on the wharf awaiting shipment. The Chinamen engaged in abalone fishing are rushing the work, as only a limited number of days yet remain until the season closes.”

October 3, 1900 [SBDI]: “The junk Acme arrived today from San Miguel Island with a cargo of abalone shells.”

October 4, 1900 [SBMP]: “The junk Acme arrived yesterday from San Miguel Island with a cargo of abalone shells from the Chinese fishing camps.”

August 27, 1904 [SBMP]: “The yacht Peerless returned from San Miguel Island with a cargo of abalones and shells, the product of Chinese fishermen.”

August 29, 1904 [SBMP]: “Captain Rosaline Vasquez was unloading a cargo of abalone shells in front of the Peerless yesterday. The boat also carried sea grass and other products of San Miguel Island. The Peerless leaves again today for San Miguel Island for another load of the same commodities.”

April 22, 1905 [SBMP]: “The fishing sloop Peerless left for the islands yesterday with a number of fishermen and a load of supplies, for the purpose of establishing abalone camps on Santa Rosa and San Miguel islands. Besides gathering abalone shells, meat and pearls, they will also collect sea grass, which commands a good price in Chinese markets.”

July 4, 1905 [SBMP]: “Captain Vasquez will sail this morning with a load of supplies for Captain Waters, San Miguel Island. From there he will go to San Nicolas Island in order to bring Frank Nidever and Clarence Libbey, abalone fishermen, who have been on the island for three months. Their catch of abalone meat, shells and pearls will also be brought in on the boat.”

August 22, 1905 [LAT]: “[State Fish and Game patrolman H. J.] Abels is making a general raid of all abalone camps on the Channel Islands, and is causing the wholesale arrest of Chinese abalone fishermen for having in their possession the shells of abalones that are under the required size of twelve inches in circumference. Ah Poy and Ah Jim were brought in by him on Sunday, and will plead before Justice Wheaton tomorrow. C. L. Jung, A. Que and Ton King have also been arrested on the same charge. Each of them was fined $25, and they have been released. Mr. Abels leaves today for San Miguel Island in search of others who are disobeying the game laws.”

August 26, 1905 [SBMP]: “Two more members of the Ah family yesterday paid fines at Justice Wheaton’s court for having undersized abalones in their possession. They were Ah Hoy and Ah King. Each paid $25, pleading guilty to the charges preferred by patrolman H. J. Ables. They were arrested on San Miguel Island as told in yesterday’s press. The Chinamen have announced that they will abandon abalone fishing as the fines imposed with a tiresome regularity since the patrol arrangement of the state fish commission went into effect, are eating into the profits of the business.”

April 25, 1906 [SBMP]: “Diving for Abalones. Japanese fishermen are threatening industry... Recently Japanese fishermen in the employ of several of the large companies have been taking the large abalones from water up to ten fathoms deep by sending down expert divers with complete diving apparatus... Libbey and Nidever say that G. F. McGuire, owner of the powerboat Peerless, has a crew of ten Japs working for him at San Miguel, and that the San Pedro Cannery Company had the schooner Bolinas with a full crew of divers at work.”

May 10, 1906 [SBI]: “Captain Vasquez left this morning in his boat for San Miguel Island. The object of the trip is twofold, to take a party of abalone hunters to the island and to visit the wreck of the J. M. Colman, the large lumber schooner which went ashore there some months ago.”

May 25, 1906 [SBMP]: “Frank Nidever, captain of the launch Irene, has recently returned from a trip to Santa Barbara Island. Nidever reports that there two Japanese abalone camps on the island, and that according to statements of the fishermen themselves, the grounds will be about cleaned out within a month. When there are no more shellfish to be taken, one outfit will move to San Miguel and the other will locate on either Santa Cruz or Anacapa. Nidever has been active in bringing the practical extermination of abalones by the Japs to the attention of the authorities, and hopes that some legislative action will be taken to protect the fish. The Japs use up-to-date diving outfits and get the large abalones in several fathoms of water. These large black abalones are the breeders, and it will take years to undo the harm that the divers have already done, even if measures are taken to prevent further depredations.”

February 23, 1907 [LAT]: “’Chappie’ and Jim Gardner, who have spent the past three months on San Miguel Island, returned yesterday. San Miguel is the outer of the group off Santa Barbara and is little frequented. The object of their visit was to hunt for Indian relics and shells. They were very successful, bringing back several tons of fine abalone shells with the dried meats, and numerous boxes of interesting relics of the ancient inhabitants. They also brought back several seal skins, one of which measures over ten feet in length. They also sighted three sea otters, but these wary animals, whose skins are worth from $500 to $1000 each, were too cunning for the hunters. “

May 11, 1907 [SBI]: “Captain Colice Vasquez left yesterday for the east end of San Miguel Island with a boatload of men who will gather abalone and moss.”

September 5, 1908 [SBI]: “Chamber of Commerce favors protection for sea lion and abalone… such protection was brought before the directors of the Chamber of Commerce by George W. McComber… McComber said it had been brought to his attention that Chinamen were gathering the shells irrespective of size. He quoted Captain W. C. Waters to the effect that no abalone would be left on San Miguel if the present rate of destruction continued four years more…”

September 8, 1908 [LAH]: “Santa Barbara, September 7… Captain William G. Waters, owner of San Miguel Island, one of the islands of the Santa Barbara group, is authority for the statement that if the ruthless slaughter of seals and the gathering of abalone shells by Chinese shall continue for four years more on the same scale as has prevailed in the past, both of these amphibian denizens will be exterminated. Professor Rowley of Stanford University, who recently visited the islands, is another champion of special legislation to protect the abalone and the seals...”

March 17, 1909 [SBMP]: “Overdue again, this time from San Miguel Island, the power schooner Gussie M in charge of Captain Vasquez, with Captain William G. Waters, his sheep shearers and Ah Poy, the abalone fisher on board, is hourly expected. The little vessel sailed from here some time days ago to bring back the people from the island, but it is believed that severe storms which have not been felt here, have prevented the schooner from making a landing or from loading the passengers and freight homeward bound...”

March 19, 1909 [SBMP]: “With Captain Colice Vasquez, half-owner of the vessel, at the wheel, the power schooner Gussie M arrived in this harbor yesterday from San Miguel Island after a tempestuous voyage that tried the seamanship and patience of even this rugged veteran of the briny. The schooner brought in Captain William G. Waters and his sheepshearers, but the stormy weather prevented loading several tons of abalone meat and a number of tons of abalone shell, to say nothing of Ah Poy, the Chinese abalone fisher, and his men. The latter are still on the island and Captain Vasquez will have to make another trip to bring them home… As the result of the Chinese boycott of abalones from Japan, the price for American-caught abalone has soared more than 100 percent. Where formerly the price ranged from 5 to 7 cents per pound, it has now reached 10 to 12 cents. Captain McGuire shipped more than 56,000 pounds of abalone shells, the accumulation of 18 months, to New York via Panama last week. This is the largest consignment of abalone shells ever shipped out of here.”

April 10, 1909 [SBI]: “Several abalone fishermen returned this morning from San Miguel Island with five tons of abalones in their boats. The fishermen have just received word from the State Fish and Game Commission that they can dispose of the abalones any time before May 1, 1909 without violating the new Campbell Abalone Bill which passed the legislature March 8. Although the law provides that any one disposing of or catching abalones after that date is guilty of a misdemeanor and liable to a heavy fine and imprisonment, the state commissioners have informed the Santa fishermen that all abalones caught by them before that time may be sold. Since the story was published in The Independent two weeks ago, telling of the provisions of the Campbell law, the residents of Santa Cruz, San Miguel and the other Channel Islands have been in a state of turmoil and unrest, for the fishermen who had labored all season catching abalones found that they would not be able to dispose of their catch under the strict provisions of the new law. News of the Commission’s interpretation of the new law was received with delight on the part of the fishermen. The fishermen who arrived today stated that there were at least 20 more on the islands with piled-up catches of abalones aggregating a score of tons. These abalones will be brought over early next week.”

April 22, 1909 [SBMP]: “Six abalone fishermen arrived from San Miguel Island Wednesday night with five tons of abalones. Although the law governing the sale of abalones went into effect March, the fishermen will not be disturbed in disposing of their catch.”

June 10, 1910 [SBI]: “Two Japanese abalone fishermen, employed by Frank Mura, also a fisherman, left Santa Barbara 18 days ago in a gasoline launch for San Miguel Island, and have not been seen or herd of since. Mura fears that the boat with its crew and $1500 worth of equipment got into the ‘blind breakers’ on the west end of Santa Rosa Island and foundered. Boats returning from San Miguel bring the information that no Japanese have landed there, and Mura’s fishing camp is deserted. He has put up a small corrugated iron hut on the beach where the men were to have landed. Mura is an old man with scraggly beard, and anxiety over the fate of his boat and employees is wearing on him. He spends his time on the commercial wharf or around the Larco fish market, waiting for news of the fishing launch. A large catch of abalones had been stored in the hut on the island, and the boat was to have returned to the mainland with a load for shipment to China at once. Mura had been gathering the large abalone that are not protected by the state law.”

December 9, 1911 [LAT/LB]: “Would limit abalone catch. C. B. Linton who controls the abalone and pearl concessions of San Miguel and San Clemente islands, is much interested in the application of the Catalina Tuna Club to have the Board of Supervisors limit the daily catch of abalones to fifty pounds each day for each fisherman. Mr. Linton believes the catch should be limited so far as red and green abalones are concerned, but will protest against its application to the black abalones, which he says, are in no danger of extinction since 20 percent of them live within the lines of the surf and are not within the reach of divers or ebb workers. He says that the green and red abalones are easy pickings for the Japanese divers, most of whom are no respecters of the Fish and Game laws, but denude the localities in which they work. The Linton concessions have shipped sixty tons of shells to eastern manufacturers this year. They also have a plant, or bed, of 3000 abalones which are engaged just now in making abalone pearls. The plant is soon to be moved nearer the mainland. The process is new, pearls being developed in the course of one or two years around a composition nucleus that is planted inside the abalone shell. Some of these have been removed from abalones after being planted eight months, and show the scheme is a success. The pearls can be produced in any color of the Oriental pearl, and will be very valuable.”

December 11, 1911 [LAT]: “Information has been received by President Newbert of the State Fish & Game Commission, that an abalone pearl farm established on San Clemente Island by private enterprise has proved successful and that several of the islands of Southern California may be devoted to the production of the pearls, which are said to be unusually large and beautiful… The abalone farm was established on San Clemente Island over a year ago by C. B. Linton of Long Beach, who has abalone concessions on that island, also San Nicolas, Santa Barbara and San Miguel islands. For years the abalones were almost cleaned out by Japanese divers, who were not generally known to have secured pearls. They sold the meat and shells and pocketed the pearls without ostentation, and it is only of late years that it has been discovered that the brown men have carried off fortunes in pearls.”

June 2, 1914 [SBDNI]: “Captain Nidever arrived this morning with a big cargo of abalone shells gathered on San Miguel Island. The shells will be shipped to San Francisco by the Larco brothers.”