Todd J. Braje



Associate Professor of Anthropology

Department of Anthropology

San Diego State University

5500 Campanile Dr.

San Diego, CA 92182-6040

Office: 619-594-5668

Fax: 619-594-1150


Available at the University of Utah Press

Two Books on the Archaeology and Historical Ecology of the North Pacific

Now Available!

Research Interests and Geographic Expertise

Archaeology of Maritime Societies

Pacific Coast Archaeology

Marine Historical Ecology

Coastal Adaptations

Complex Hunter-Gatherer-Fisher Studies

Peopling of the Americas

Archaeological Method and Theory

North American Archaeology

California Archaeology

Channel Islands Archaeology

Solomon Islands Archaeology

Early Coastal Migrations

Tribal Consultation and Collaboration

While the newly minted state of California was captivated by gold fever, a small group of enterprising Chinese immigrants recognized the untapped resources along her coast. Freed from both human and sea otter predation for decades, coastal California was teeming with abalone stocks. It was Chinese immigrants who realized the fortune to be made in fishing, processing, and exporting the abundant intertidal black abalone of southern and Baja California. Originating from a traditional fishing province in China, many Chinese immigrants came with the skills and knowledge to be successful fishermen. From these humble beginnings, they founded the commercial California abalone fishery and were responsible for its growth and expansion over the next several decades. In less than 150 years abalone fishing rose to become a multi-million dollar industry but overfishing, disease, and mismanagement have combined to end all commercial abalone fishing along North America’s Pacific Coast and drive several species to the brink of extinction.

    The culmination of over a decade of field, archival, and laboratory work, this book explores the history of Chinese abalone fishing in southern California, using the Northern Channel Islands as a case study. It is not, however, a tertiary story of nineteenth century California. It is an analogy for the broader history of Chinese immigrants in America – their struggles, their successes, the institutionalized racism they faced, and the unique ways in which they shaped the identity of our nation. It is also a microcosm for our world’s fisheries. The story of ecological dysfunction, over-harvesting, and eventual collapse is one that can be told with countless species worldwide. The crisis facing Pacific Coast abalone parallels the collapse of many of the most important and productive fisheries around the world. The key to avoiding future crises and restoring our degraded marine ecosystems may be in looking to the past. There are lessons to be learned from history, we just need to know where to look and how to see and interpret them.