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For Immediate Release, January 14, 2010

Contact: Catherine Kilduff, (415) 644-8580

Suit to Be Filed to Protect Habitat for California's Endangered Black Abalone
Global Warming and Ocean Acidification Push Black Abalone Toward Extinction

SAN FRANCISCO— Today the Center for Biological Diversity filed an official notice of its intent to sue the National Marine Fisheries Service for its failure to designate critical habitat for the endangered black abalone. On January 14, 2009, black abalone was listed as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act. With that listing, federal law requires protection of critical habitat for the abalone. Today’s notice of intent to sue must be sent prior to filing a lawsuit in federal court.

“Critical habitat protections have a proven track record helping endangered species to survive,” said Catherine Kilduff, a staff attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Species with critical habitat are twice as likely to be recovering as species that don’t have it. Black abalone is on the cusp of extinction, and any further delay of federal habitat protection may well seal the species’ fate.”

Listed as endangered in response to a petition filed by the Center for Biological Diversity, black abalone populations have declined as much as 99 percent since the early 1970s. Experts predict that black abalone will be extinct within three decades, the average life span of black abalone. The combined effects of overfishing, disease, global warming, and ocean acidification have decimated black abalone populations.

“The disappearance of black abalone along the California coast is a warning that our oceans are in trouble,” said Kilduff. “Habitat protections are needed improve the black abalone’s chances for survival, especially in a high CO2 world.”

Once occurring at densities of up to 120 per square meter, the black abalone was among the most common and visible invertebrates in Southern California tidepools and sustained a valuable commercial fishery. Overfishing initially depleted the population, and now the outbreak and spread of a disease called withering syndrome has caused black abalone virtually to disappear from the Southern California mainland and many areas of the Channel Islands. Warming waters due to climate change are causing the disease to spread and become more virulent. Meanwhile, ocean acidification threatens to dissolve the abalone’s protective shell and impair its growth and reproduction.   

Congress has emphasized the importance of critical habitat under the Endangered Species Act by stating that “the ultimate effectiveness of the Endangered Species Act will depend on the designation of critical habitat.” Recent studies have shown that species with critical habitat are twice as likely to be recovering as species without.

The National Marine Fisheries Service, by law, had one year from listing the endangered black abalone to identify critical habitat. Today the Fisheries Service failed to meet its mandatory deadline.

More information on the black abalone is available at

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with 255,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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