The 1st week of abalone surveys was exciting. We did 6 training dives last week, working with Josh to setup and survey each site. Both sites are rocky reefs. It was a little over whelming looking for the abalone at first. When checking out abalone in the Shannon Pt. tanks, their distinguishing characteristics were obvious. But when down at the survey sites the diversity of the reef makes finding abalone a little more difficult. The abalone size at the sites range from less than 2 to over 15 cm. Most of the tagged abalone is on the smaller end of this scale. Abalone, rocks, and other shell fish are often covered in marine life including the pink coralline algae which makes everything seem to blend together. Additionally abalone like to live in cracks and rock overhangs. Josh trained Anne B. and I on the sites and also helped us develop the abalone “search image”. Josh would find an abalone and point it out to us so we could make our own mental image. He also showed us the best pace and strategy of abalone surveying. By distance the surveys are slow, but a lot of area is covered because it is necessary to check out all the nooks and crannies. Once Josh showed us a few abalone on site, Anne and I started finding them ourselves. Then we got addicted to surveying. Abalone surveys are fun because, 1) of the Easter egg hunt effect, and 2) they live under rock overhangs and in cracks so while looking for abalone you run into many other beautiful animals!
These sites are also home to kelp forests, another important ingredient for good abalone habitat. One of the sites is especially thick with kelp making minor entanglement frequent. However, at these sites kelp is also helpful. With current present while diving, kelp is a valuable and sturdy hand hold. I am excited to see these forests grow in the upcoming month.
We are continuing to survey the same sites this week. Josh has been replaced by Nate for our last few training dives. Once we are finished with our 13th training dive Anne B. and I are on our own!
Thank you Christa Doughherty and Kailey Gabrian-Voorhees for taking wonderful pictures and coming out to the sites.