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For Immediate Release, May 6, 2010

Contact: Catherine Kilduff, Center for Biological Diversity, (415) 644-8580

Settlement Will Secure Habitat for Black Abalone Endangered by Climate Change

SAN FRANCISCO— A court-ordered settlement filed yesterday requires the federal government to protect habitat for the endangered black abalone. The agreement results from a lawsuit filed by the Center for Biological Diversity challenging the National Marine Fisheries Service’s failure to designate critical habitat for the shellfish, which, once common in Southern California tide pools, has declined by 99 percent since the 1970s.

“Black abalone is on the cusp of extinction and could be California’s first marine species lost to global warming,” said Catherine Kilduff, a staff attorney at the Center. “Habitat protections can provide a basis for recovery of the black abalone, which is a crucial constituent of California’s kelp bed ecosystems.”

On January 14, 2009, in response to a Center petition, black abalone was listed as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act. With that listing, federal agencies by law must protect the abalone’s critical habitat. According to the federal government’s own data, species with critical habitat protected under the Endangered Species Act are twice as likely to be recovering as those without.

“The loss of black abalone along the California coast is a warning: Our oceans are in trouble,” said Kilduff. “Habitat protections are needed to improve the black abalone’s chances for surviving the threats of global warming and ocean acidification.”

While fishing for black abalone is banned in the state, overfishing initially depleted the population, and poaching continues to hinder recovery. Now global warming is exacerbating the outbreak and spread of a disease called withering syndrome that has caused black abalone virtually to disappear from the Southern California mainland and many areas of the Channel Islands. Additionally, ocean acidification poses an increasing threat to the abalone’s 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.” The National Marine Fisheries Service must propose critical habitat for black abalone by September 20, 2010.

More information on the black abalone is available at
http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/species/invertebrates/black_abalone/index.html

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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