Abalone: Santa Catalina Island

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Abalone: Santa Catalina Island

In the News~

June 17, 1878 [SBDP]: “The Star of Freedom brought a load of wool and abalone shells from Catalina Island.”

April 12, 1880 [SBDP]: “The schooner Surprise came in yesterday from Catalina Island, having on board 90 seal skins, 40 sacks of abalone meat, and 40 sacks of shells. She goes in a day or two to Anacapa Island with a party of seal hunters, who are employed to capture 50 seals alive, which are designed for the East.”

August 1, 1883 [LAT]: “Catalina in flames. A wretched Sunday for thousands of people. The beautiful island city lying in ashes. Immense losses, but well-insured. Factories, churches, courthouse and many residences burned. On Sunday afternoon, on the arrival of the Wilmington train, the painful particulars of a terrible fire at Catalina Island were first learned. According to General Roley, who was first on the scene, it commenced in the Chinese fish oil manufactory of Ah Lie, who was smoking opium, and carelessly knocked over his lamp, the flames being immediately conveyed to a lot of open barrels containing refined oil. Ah Lie was burned to death while lying in a state of insensibility from opium… The abalone factory soon met the same fate…”

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.”

December 18, 1898 [LAT/SD]: “The schooner Amy, Captain Jenkins, arrived yesterday from Catalina and Clemente islands, after being out sixty days. She was given up for lost by her owner. She brings twelve tons of guano and a lot of abalone shells and meat.”

April 21, 1903 [LAT/SCat]: “Avalon. Catalina is up in arms. She has been invaded by Japan. A lot of little brown men, with a small sloop, appeared at Empire a few days since, and are preceding to skin the rocks of the abalones. These Japs are divers. They wear goggles with which they locate the abalone as they swim along the surface, and making a spring, they emulate the ‘hell diver’ and disappear to wrench the inoffensive shellfish from its hold on the rock by a quick thrust of an iron bar. Practice has made these men able to remain underwater an unconceivable length of time, and they seem to be as much at home in and under the water as the shag…”

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.”

November 14, 1913 [SBMP]: “The utter annihilation of the abalones and crawfish in southern waters, unless something is done soon, is the gist of the report that is to be made in two weeks to the State Fish and Game Commission by J. A. Coxe, who has been investigating conditions for three weeks. Coxe is the San Pedro expert on deep sea fish with the Tufts—Lyon firm, and has been studying the question for years. A month ago he was commissioned by the fish commission to make a cruise through the islands off the Southern California coast and make a report on conditions as he found them. He returned last week from a trip of three weeks, on which he was accompanied by J. W. Jump and Smith Warren, of San Pedro. The result of their observation is published by the Catalina Wireless… Coxe suggests that the closed season on abalones from January to April, should be extended to include April and May, and he may recommend this action to the commission. It would save these varieties from destruction and give the commission a chance to study their habits. At this time abalone shells are worth $100 a ton, and the meat is shipped to Japan.”

March 2, 1917 [OC]: “Gathering abalones used to be quite a sport about Catalina, an old piece of buggy spring being used as a tool to pry them off the rocks at low tide. Then the Japanese cleaned the island. Now the abalones are becoming quite plentiful again, and up the Malibu coast, around the Portuguese Bend cliffs and other rocky headlands, abalone parties may be quite the thing if the ‘ten per day’ limit on black abalones is made. The red, pink and green abalones may be taken now, but are rarer here.”