Search suspended for diver who disappeared during abalone hunt along California coast

At least seven divers have died in Northern California this year while searching for abalone.

At least seven divers have died in Northern California this year while searching for abalone.

(Los Angeles Times)

Rescue efforts were suspended for a diver who went missing Monday while searching for abalone off the coast of Mendocino County, authorities said.

Divers searched the ocean near Moat Creek Beach in Point Arena at high tide and along the bluffs with binoculars, but they did not find David Tan Le.

“The search has been suspended, pending indications suggesting where to resume the search,” said Lt. Greg Stefani of the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office.

Mendocino County Search and Rescue volunteers and California Department of Fish and Wildlife maritime wardens had been looking for Le since Monday.


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The 57-year Oakland man and several friends and relatives were searching for abalone about 8 a.m. near the beach.

When Le did not surface from the water, the group searched the area and called authorities, Stefani said.

Hazardous sea conditions slowed search efforts throughout the week, but divers finally got a break Wednesday.

A period of high tide allowed them to search underwater areas that were inaccessible Tuesday.

Le is one of several divers who have gone missing while diving for the cherished mollusk off the rugged coasts of Marin, Sonoma and Mendocino counties.

In August, the body of Yoshihiro Ohhashi, 57, of Pleasanton was recovered after he was overcome by rough seas while diving for abalone off the Mendocino coast.

The Northern California coast attracts thousands of divers during abalone season, which runs from April 1 to Nov. 30, with a month-long break in July.


Abalone cling to rocks along the coast and feed on kelp and other algae, according to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. It takes years for abalone to grow to a legal size for harvest. The minimum size limit is 7 inches along the longest shell diameter — anything smaller must be returned to the rock surface from which it was removed.

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