Critically Endangered White Abalone Discovered Solo in Coastal LA County Water

White abalone News item 4-2019 in field Relocation of endangered white abalone to captive breeding program.

A lone white abalone was recently identified during 5-year monitoring in coastal LA County waters.  Scientific divers from NOAA’s Protected Resources Division determined that because the abalone was alone and the habitat was compromised, lacking food and threated by anthropogenic activities, it should be collected and incorporated into the White Abalone Captive Breeding Program.  Since abalone release eggs and sperm into the water to combine and produce larvae, populations rely on a proximity of just a few meters apart to ensure successful spawning. The lack of any other white abalone presence in the immediate area ensured that the animal would be unable to reproduce successfully.  The collection of the abalone was authorized under a NOAA ESA permit issued to the leaders of the captive breeding program at the U.C. Davis Bodega Marine Laboratory.
Divers successfully collected the abalone and are currently holding it at the Southwest Fisheries Science Center (SWFSC) Research Aquarium in La Jolla. In April, scientists will transport the abalone to Bodega Marine Laboratory to join other white abalone broodstock in the Captive Breeding Program. This abalone will be part of a spawn attempt at Bodega Marine Lab in April where it will hopefully release viable sperm and increase the genetic diversity of progeny in the breeding program.

The decision to relocate the wild animal was taken with great care. The white abalone, Haliotis sorenseni, is one of eight abalone species off the coast of California. The white abalone fishery was closed in 1997 due to overfishing, however populations continue to decline.  The sea snail was listed as an endangered species in 2001. There has been no sign of significant recruitment occurring since the 1960s and recent surveys suggest the population is growing older with little or no evidence of recruitment. Without intervention, the quasi-extinct threshold of 1,000 individuals is expected to occur by the year 2029.  The best way to rebuild white abalone populations is through a captive breeding program in which captive-raised abalone are outplanted until populations in the wild are self-sustaining. To fulfill this need, the White Abalone Captive Breeding Program was established with many partners including NOAA, and is currently headquartered at Bodega Marine Laboratory, UC Davis.  Since moving to Bodega Marine Laboratory, the program had its first captive reproductive success in 2012 and production has increased in the years thereafter. The addition of this newest member has both ensured its survival, as well as increased the likelihood of genetic diversity in the Captive Breeding Program. 

Read more about White Abalone:
White Abalone Recovery Program at the U.C. Davis Bodega Marine Laboratory  The previous link is a link to Non-Federal government web site. Click to review NOAA Fisheries Disclaimer
Abalone Research at the Southwest Fisheries Science Center
Abalone Aquarium at the Southwest Fisheries Science Center