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Apr 2, 2013 07:54 PM

Buying abalone direct from divers

Are there places within 1 or 2 hours' drive from San Francisco where I can buy abalone direct from divers?

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  1. It's illegal to sell or barter wild abalone.

    13 Replies
      1. re: Melanie Wong

        Huh, I had no idea! I had visions of renting a cabin on the Sonoma or Mendo coast and buying fresh abalone, and cooking it back at the cabin. I guess that's not possible?

        1. re: Kosmonaut

          Correct. There is farmed abalone that you can buy, but I couldn't tell you where.

          The season for red abalone opened yesterday. You might stumble onto an abalone feed somewhere. The abalone that the game wardens confiscate from poachers are donated to charitable organizations for fundraisers.

          1. re: Melanie Wong

            seriously, do not try to ask a diver to sell you an abalone. this law is taken very seriously. stop into the b&bs along the coast- they will have information on local feeds (crab, abalone, etc).

            just an FYI, this year California changed DFG's name. they are no longer game wardens- they are the dept of fish and wildlife now (so, now they are CA DFW). the term "game" was outdated and does not accurately reflect all the natural environment they protect. their website is still

            1. re: Melanie Wong

              Tokyo Fish Market in Berkeley often, but not always, has abalone.

            2. re: Kosmonaut

              What about renting the cabin, taking scuba lessons and catching your own? That *IS* legal! But it may require a license. Don';t know about that part...

              1. re: Caroline1

                No scuba gear allowed when taking abalone, free diving only. So abalone below about 20 feet are safe.

                1. re: Veggo

                  I guess that turns ab diving into a sport for ama sans! <sigh> There's always some sort of government regulation taking the fun out of things!

                    1. re: Veggo

                      Cancel the clarification because my age is showing! I was trying to delete the remarks about it being legal when my silly computer OR the silly website decided to send instead of delete1 See the corrected post.... '-)

                      1. re: Caroline1

                        Gotcha. For a critter that tasty, defenseless, and expensive, scuba divers could more than decimate the species in no time. In Florida, it is illegal to take queen conch by any means, including free diving.

          2. If you show up somewhere where there's abalone on a nice Saturday, I don't think it's impossible to get some gifted to you. As to where, you'd have to Google it, but it'd be two hours or more from SF.

            8 Replies
            1. re: xanadude

              Seriously? Has this ever actually happened to a stranger? My friends who abalone dive always come back exhausted and I can't imagine anyone in good conscience sport diving given the expense of a licence and the depleted population. Plus, divers have a limited number of tags and can only get three in a day.

              1. re: hyperbowler

                I've given abs to strangers while camping on the north coast. Off the top of my head I remember giving one to a woman from Hong Kong. She was here visiting her son (college) and they drove up on the coast to sight see. She asked how I was going to cook it and I told her "BBQ". Her jaw dropped. That was pretty funny because at that point, I'm sure the stereotype of Americans BBQ'ing everything was perpetuated.

                I gave another one to an elderly doctor who engaged me in conversation about how he and use to harvest abs in his youth.

                I've given quite a few to new (unsuccessful) divers.

                1. re: Spinal Tap

                  Awesome, that's very generous of you to do so!

                  Still, I don't think it wise to encourage people to seek out an abalone diving spot with the hopes of having some benevolent person gift them one.

                2. re: hyperbowler

                  I'd say it's more likely on Saturday than on Sunday--if you're camping, there's a limit to how many you can eat that night, and you can't keep them and then fish the next day. Three/pp is definitely a surplus.

                  There's a farm in Pescadero that sells them, too, I think.

                  1. re: xanadude

                    Actually, it's in Davenport but close enough. It's quite an operation they have down there.


                    1. re: baron45

                      I visited the farm on a tour a few years ago. Quite interesting. They only sell to the general public on Saturdays.

                3. re: xanadude

                  A more reliable way to get some abalone would be to take an abalone diving class.

                  1. re: xanadude

                    I drive to far and work to hard to get my abs..much less risking life and limb to give those suckers away..sorry but I'm not that generous.

                  2. I'm an ab diver, and I can tell you that I would never sell abalone. I have given a few away to divers who've been skunked, but as the others have said, selling is very illegal and even having an ab on you without your license will get you a huge fine.
                    On a lighter note, I've seen frozen chilean abalone at 99 Ranch several times.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: kungful

                      Had no idea such a thing was illegal. Too bad. I know where to buy live farmed abalone south of Pescadero, and that's fine with me ... just had this romantic notion I could get it fresh out of the ocean. :)

                    2. Outside the Bay Area, but you might want to put this on your calendar. I ran across this announcement for a wild abalone cook-off on Oct 5 in Fort Bragg,

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Melanie Wong

                        Sounds great, but too far for me to drive:( Also the judging tickets (which are the only ones that get tasting) are wait listed both for members and non members.

                        If anyone goes I'd love to see a report so I can drool over it.

                      2. There's an article in today's New York Times about one-day abalone diving courses near Salt Point:

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: Jeff

                          This is OT, but that author is ignorant. My ab diving colleagues tell me abalone are hemopheliac, and by jabbing at an ab that had sucked down onto the rock, the author had surely fatally injured it without actually harvesting anything. It happens. But if this person was at all properly trained he/she would know this and would probably not have lead the article with the same anecdote. Haplessly jabbing at a ab in this case is just bad form.

                          1. re: BernalKC

                            True that. I never was able to go down without a wetsuit jacket.