White Abalone listed as an endangered species. California's first marine invertebrate ever protected under the endangered species act.

May 29, 2001 - The National Marine Fisheries Service (NFMS-a division of the Commerce Department) today designated the white abalone as "endangered" under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA). NMFS' finding, published in the Federal Register, comes in response to an administrative petition filed in April 1999 by the Center for Biological Diversity requesting the protection of the species under the ESA. The white abalone, one of eight abalone species off the California coast, formerly occurred from near Point Conception, California to Punta Eugenia, Baja California, Mexico. The species is known to currently exist in a few locations nears the Channel Islands. The white abalone grows to a maximum length of ten inches and an adult weighs between one and two pounds.

The white abalone is the first marine invertebrate ever protected under the ESA.

White Abalone Have Declined 99.9% in the past 30 Years.

Photo courtesy of NOAAWhite abalone numbers have declined precipitously from their historic numbers such that the species is in imminent danger of extinction. The white abalone once numbered between 2 and 4 million animals. The most recent surveys estimate that only 2500 remain. This is a decline of over 99.9%. The decline was caused by rampant commercial overharvest. The white abalone represents a tragic example of how poor fisheries management has reduced a once abundant species to the verge of extinction.

The few white abalone that remain in the wild are too far apart to successfully reproduce. The maximum life span of an individual white abalone is estimated to be between 30 and 40 years. Thirty-five years have passed since the last known successful recruitment of the species in 1966. Scientists have predicted that the species will be extinct within 10 years unless immediate action is taken. Recovery actions for the species could include captive breeding and possibly relocating individuals so that they are close enough together to breed.

graphic Andrew Rodman ©2002
December 21, 2006
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