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Farewell to abalone

In lieu of Valentine’s Day, it is appropriate to discuss a matter that captures the essence of love–the spawning of abalone in southern California. Their super hard shells… that super soft interior…. mmmm don’t even get me started on that sexy foot! What is more romantic than a gastropod?

Although undeniable sexy creatures of the sea, abalone are endangered. Gasp! Tragedy! How could this be?

These animals are quite awful at flirting– they’re that creepy guy in the corner of the Red Room you’re avoiding eye contact with. Similarly to this creepy guy in the corner, abalone is not picky. They cast a wide net with the desperate hope that someone out there is DTR (down to reproduce). By littering their eggs and sperm into the open ocean, one sperm is statistically likely to fertilize one egg, right? Wrong.

In southern California, the abalone numbers are so low (except red abalone) that they cast their reproductive assets for no one to greet–or fertilize. It’s as if the creepy guy were the corner of an empty bar. What little chance he did have at getting laid has dropped to zero with no one around. In science speak, this is called the Allee effect. The population density is so low it is incapable of restoring its population size. There simply is not enough of them.

As I’m sure you’ve already guessed, humans are to blame. Overfishing abalone has completely depleted populations. Although there are now laws banning abalone fishing (except for red abalone… sorry guys), it is too late. The Allee effect is in full-blown swing and soon they will be gone forever.

As you binge on chocolate covered strawberries with your starry-eyed lover this evening, please meditate on the impermanence of the abalone down south–abalone is a known aphrodisiac. Heading down the inevitable path of extinction, these gastropods are going to spend this holiday of love in the lonely embrace of a jar of Nutella. After all, you can’t spell abalone without alone.

Caitlin

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