Abalone

Abalone Research 2 Abalone Research 1 Abalone Aquarium Resized 
 Genetic Research  Physiology Research  Aquarium Research  


Seven species of abalone ( Haliotis spp. ) occur off the west coast, including the white  ( H. sorenseni ), black  ( H. cracherodii ), red (H. rufescens), pink  ( H. corrugata ), green  ( H. fulgens ), pinto (H. kamtschatkana) , and flat abalone (H. walallensis). Abalone belong to a group of herbivorous marine snails in the family Haliotidae. Once being plentiful off the coast of California and supporting a lucrative fishery, intense commercial harvesting starting in the 1960s and 1970s, resulted in a steep decline in the populations. In 1997, California closed all commercial and recreational harvest of abalone except for a highly regulated recreational fishery for red abalone north of San Francisco. Abalone populations are still decreasing in part due to illegal harvesting, disease, and the failure to reproduce in the wild due to their low densities. The white abalone was listed as a federally endangered species in 2001, followed by the black abalone being listed in 2009. In addition, the pink, green, and pinto abalone are all listed as Species of Concern.

Commercial abalone aquaculture has greatly expanded over the past decade, becoming a thriving global industry valued at over $100 million USD. Abalone is one of the few species where culture production dominates the global market as a result of increasing demand and declining natural stocks from overexploitation and disease. United States abalone production is also growing due to high market value and demand. Most farms operating in California utilize the native red abalone while farms in Baja California, Mexico culturing red, green, and pink abalone.

The Genetics, Physiology, and Aquaculture (GPA) Program’s research focuses on our local abalone species to develop methods to support and expand commercial aquaculture in the region as well as aid in restoration programs for the federally endangered white and black abalone. These foci often overlap with research on red abalone, pink and green abalone  being used to guide restoration efforts for the two endangered species.