Historical Archaeology

, Volume 41, Issue 4, pp 117–128 | Cite as

An Historic Chinese Abalone Fishery on California’s Northern Channel Islands

  • Todd J. Braje
  • Jon M. Erlandson
  • Torben C. Rick


Beginning in the 1850s, Chinese abalone fishermen developed an intensive commercial fishery focused on the abundant black abalone (Haliotis cracherodii) stocks of Alta and Baja California. They systematically harvested and dried tons of abalone meat and shells from intertidal waters and shipped them to markets in mainland China and America. Several legislative attempts were made to curtail Chinese involvement in the fishing industry, claiming they were harvesting abalone without regard to size. Recent research documents the abundance, distribution, and constituents of historic abalone sites and discusses the impact of “Chinese” abalone fishermen on San Miguel Island, California. Thousands of shell measurements show that the Chinese harvested larger abalones than those collected by Native American foragers for 10,000 years prior to European contact, providing important data on local ecology during the early historic period.


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Copyright information

© Society for Historical Archaeology 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Todd J. Braje
    • 1
  • Jon M. Erlandson
    • 2
  • Torben C. Rick
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of OregonEugeneUSA
  2. 2.Museum of Natural and Cultural HistoryUniversity of OregonEugeneUSA
  3. 3.Department of AnthropologySouthern Methodist UniversityDallasUSA

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