A rare serving of abalone at C Restaurant, Tim Pawsey photo

Over the last few years, we’ve been moved by the compelling story of the gradual revival of West Coast Pinto Abalone, driven by the efforts of the Bamfield Community Huu ay aht Abalone Project. Funded in part by Environment Canada and Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre—this was an outreach pilot project aimed at reintroducing the Pinto abalone, which was all but eradicated due to overfishing (in part due to the arrival of SCUBA equipment) in the 80s and 90s.

C Restaurant’s sustainable species crusader Robert Clark (left) was behind getting the gastropod, on rare occasions, to Vancouver’s table. No small feat in itself, considering the bureaucracy involved: each one of those dazzling, pearly shells was recorded and required to be returned to Department of Fisheries for counting, as the war on abalone poaching continues.

The tender, gently nutty and buttery flesh, which Clark would slice, flash-grill and serve almost unadorned but for a little lemon, is a perfect match with a good sparkling dry Riesling.

The abalone, which takes four years to reach maturity, was initially raised on land before being carefully transferred to ocean waters. In addition, seed from these projects were being used in attempts to re-establish the wild stocks once so plentiful (when they were harvested only by skin divers) and highly prized by First Nations.

You’ll notice by now this entire post is in the past tense.

As of this week, the project is officially dead, the result of extraordinary over zealous (and obviously misguided) conservation actions by Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

Clark’s protegé Quang Dang, now executive chef at The Metropolitan Hotel, received a few abalone for a final, sad hurrah. And we’re thinking C probably also had some.

Sometimes, we just scratch our heads and wonder

Read in more detail about this dumb-headed decision to scrap the efforts of so many, invested over years here and here

Thanks to CityFood for the heads-up on this.