California Abalone Project

20 images Created 16 Apr 2020

Seven species of abalone inhabit the coastal waters of California. From the intertidal to subtidal shallows to depths of 65 meters or more, abalone were once so plentiful as to be harvested in the millions of pounds per year. (From 1952 - 1968, combined species landings in California averaged 4.5 million lbs annually!)

Their shells are well-known. The colorful nacre that lines the interior is widely used in jewelry and inlay work. Its beautiful iridescence is recognizable even to those who have never seen the animal that it comes from. The commercial fishery peaked sometime between 1950-1970. Since then, abalone populations have experienced steep declines. Overharvesting, warming oceans, and a bacterial disease known as withering syndrome, combined to take a harsh toll on these animals. Two of the seven species, black abalone and white abalone, are listed as Critically Endangered; and all species of abalone in CA are threatened and currently protected from harvest.

Though the threats remain high, marine scientists, conservationists, aquaculturists, abalone fishers, students, and citizen scientists are working together and making progress toward stabilizing and restoring these wonderful mollusks to the Pacific Coast. The level of dedication and collaboration among those participating in this endeavor is a wonderful story, in and of itself.
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