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Abalone Diving Is Legal, But There Are Limits

By Brett Snider, Esq. | Last updated on

Abalone are prized for their beautiful iridescent shells and clam-like meat, but divers who hunt these mollusks may be biting off more than they can chew.

This weekend proved fatal for three divers hoping to get a jump on the legal diving season for abalone in California, and state park authorities hope that more divers avoid the dangerous rip currents, reports The Press Democrat.

Divers who are unaware of the state's fishing regulations may also find themselves in murky legal waters. Here are some common questions and answers about legal limits to abalone diving in California:

When Is Abalone Season? Generally, the season for hunting abalone starts in April and ends in November. However, there is no abalone hunting allowed during the month of July, and in certain bounded areas the season does not begin until June.

Where Can I Dive for Abalone? Divers are legally allowed to take abalone from any point north of the center of the mouth of the San Francisco Bay. Any diving south of this line is illegal.

How Many Abalone Can I Take? Any person may take up to three abalone per day and up to 24 per year.

Which Ones Can I Take? All divers are required to have a measuring device in their possession to measure the shell diameter of any abalone they catch. Any abalone under 7 inches in shell diameter must be released and is illegal to keep.

Can I Remove Abalone From Their Shells? Abalone may not be removed from their shells unless you're getting ready to eat them.

What Permits or Licenses Do I Need? For legal abalone diving, you'll need both a state-issued license and a report card.

  • A fishing license. All sport fishing requires some sort of fishing license by law, and a one-day sport fishing license will cost $14.61 per person.
  • An abalone report card. Any legal diving for abalone must be done with this report card, which has detachable tags which must be placed on each abalone shell that is harvested. The report card will cost $21.86.

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