Thursday, September 22, 2011

Red Tide Impacts California Abalone Supply

John Upton’s article, “Abalone and a Rite Fall Victim to Red Tide,” describes a recent virulent red tide along the Sonoma Coast in California. Red tides are blooms of plankton, which feed on nutrients and material dumped into the ocean. The plankton release natural toxins as well as deplete the oxygen supply, so they kill slow-moving oceanic wildlife by poison or suffocation. They occur annually, but the California Department of Fish and Game had to close abalone fishing ten weeks early this year because it was especially harmful. Abalone are considered a luxury item, so their demand is elastic. A ban on them will increase the cost suppliers pay to obtain them and how much consumers must pay for them. Demand will decrease because of a rise in price and people will switch to alternative food choices. What I am trying to picture though, is the overall effect a shortage will have on the local economy as a whole. The article describes abalone fishing as “a way of life on the north coast”. If this way of life is in jeopardy, how will it overall affect the economy? Especially with a dangerous red tide such as this one, other sources of food from the ocean will be affected as well. Seafood restaurants will be lacking a menu, people will not want to eat there- nor swim or walk along a coast scattered with abalone remains- and the summer season will not bring nearly as much revenue to the area. Even though abalone are a luxury item, they are connected to the overall well-being of the economy and can be used to predict the big changes that will occur when natural resources are damaged.
--Sara Chetelat

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