08/31/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Abalone Farming In Monterey Bay

Unlike other farms, theirs exists in a dim, tidal underworld: barnacle- and starfish-covered pilings hold up a few narrow wooden plankways for the abalone harvesters. Barking sea lions, the constant whine of a hydraulic winch and municipal pipes whooshing close overhead make conversation difficult. But the 200,000 native red abalones are silent in their cages, growing slowly -- just an inch per year -- until their frilly, sluglike "feet" are scraped from the panels with a spatula and they're shipped live in a plastic bubble of oxygen. At the other end, another type of spatula awaits.

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