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FILE - In this April 21, 2007 file photo, an abalone picked by a diver is seen on its back in Fort Ross, Calif. California wildlife managers have curtailed the 2017 red abalone season, axing both April and November from the calendar and sharply reducing the allowable annual catch. (AP Photo/Ben Margot, File)
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California cuts abalone catch, eliminates 2 diving months

FILE - In this April 21, 2007 file photo, an abalone picked by a diver is seen on its back in Fort Ross, Calif. California wildlife managers have curtailed the 2017 red abalone season, axing both April and November from the calendar and sharply reducing the allowable annual catch. (AP Photo/Ben Margot, File)

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — California wildlife managers have reduced the season to dive for red abalone by two months and sharply cut the amount of the mollusks divers can catch this year because of concerns about declining populations.

April and November have been removed from this year’s fishing calendar for the mollusks, which usually runs April through June and August through November. The annual abalone catch allowed per diver also has been cut from 18 to 12 to reduce this year’s harvest by 25 percent, The Press Democrat reported (http://bit.ly/2otWRgC) .

Department of Fish and Wildlife environmental scientist Jerry Kashiwada said it will be the first April since 1921 that red abalone cannot legally be harvested.

The tighter limits come after state marine biologists found the red abalone population is struggling to survive because of a sharp decline in kelp, its main source of food. A toxic algae bloom off the Sonoma coast in 2011, a widespread sea star disease in 2013 and warmer water conditions that have persisted since 2014 all contributed to a dramatic decline in kelp, the department said.

Those conditions have led to about 25 percent of abalones showing up as smaller than usual. Those too weakened by the lack of food are washing up dead on shore.

Officials hope cutting back on this year’s abalone harvest can offset the severe decline.

Northern California’s recreational red abalone fishery is allowed only along the coast of Sonoma and Mendocino counties. A study done last year by the Department of Fish and Wildlife found that there are about 31,000 abalone divers and that abalone tourism produces between $24 million and $44 million in revenues per year.

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Information from: The Santa Rosa Press Democrat, http://www.pressdemocrat.com

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