Abalone Restoration

Catalina Green Abalone

Ongoing Research


TBF began actively working to restore abalone to the kelp forests of the Santa Monica Bay in 2010 with a Community-based Restoration Matching Grant from The Nature Conservancy and the NOAA Restoration Center. The NOAA Restoration Center, NMFS, and NFWF support our current abalone restoration efforts.

This collaborative project pulls together several organizations to restore abalone to Southern California and to learn as much as possible in the process.  We have already learned a lot about the genetics of green abalone in southern California and the prevalence of withering syndrome, the disease that nearly wiped them out. Lessons learned from this project are now informing our current efforts to restore other abalone species to the wild, including the endangered white and black abalone.

Collecting eggs from two female green abalone. Eggs will be crossed with sperm to produce baby green abalone

TBF researcher collecting eggs from two female green abalone. Eggs will be fertilized with collected sperm to produce baby green abalone.


Abalone Deck Spawning

In the latest phase of abalone research, TBF and NOAA researchers are attempting a new field spawning method referred to as “deck spawning”. This method allows us to collect abalone from the wild, induce them to spawn on the deck of a research vessel, and return them to the wild the same day after spawning. Researchers have found that it is very difficult to collect abalone from the wild and reliably get them to spawn over long periods of time. If successful, deck spawning would allow us to spawn abalone without keeping them in captivity indefinitely.



TBF researchers taking vital abalone measurements during a deck spawning experiment.

Visit our In the News page for stories about this project.
Visit our research papers page for our published papers on this project.
Visit our Reports and Technical Documents page for annual reports on this project.

Restoring Southern California’s Underwater Snails


Santa Monica Bay kelp forests once teemed with a rainbow of abalone species—red, pink, green, white, black, threaded, and flat.  These shy, underwater snails have been prized by Californians as far back as people have lived on our coast.  By the mid 1900’s abalone were already in decline and by 1997 commercial fisheries for all species were closed. Now, only a highly restricted recreational fishery for red abalone is permitted north of San Francisco Bay.

Disease, overharvesting, warmer water, and loss of the kelp forests have contributed to the decline of abalone populations and made the natural recovery of most California species nearly impossible.

The Bay Foundation and our partners are working to restore abalone populations off of Southern California. We are actively researching wild and captive spawning techniques, methods for raising abalone in aquarium facilities, and outplanting abalone back into the wild to rebuild natural populations.


New TBF Abalone Laboratory!

TBF recently constructed a state of the art abalone research laboratory at the Southern California Marine Institute (SCMI) on Terminal Island in San Pedro, CA. This lab is allowing us to conduct controlled experiments to better understand abalone broodstock conditioning and spawning behavior. SCMI is conveniently located close to abundant kelp that acts as a nutritious food source for the abalone, and near our kelp forest restoration sites, where we plan to outplant abalone back into the wild to restore their populations.

Abalone Lab

TBF’s abalone research laboratory at the Southern California Marine Institute located in the Port of Los Angeles

The new TBF abalone laboratory will act as a Southern California hub for abalone research and restoration activities, and enable us to work more closely with partners across the west coast to help these important marine snails recover in the wild.

TBF staff recently spawned red abalone in the new lab and tracked their progress from fertilized egg to growing larvae. Check out their early life stages below!

Red abalone larval development over a 7 day period in the TBF lab

Red abalone larval development over a 7 day period in the TBF laboratory.