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Abalone Restoration Program

Researching and recovering threatened and endangered species of abalone.

Over the past century, all seven species of Abalone in southern California have been nearly wiped out.

Working to Recover Abalone Species to Kelp Forests in the Santa Monica Bay

The kelp forests of Santa Monica Bay once teemed with seven species of abalone—red, pink, green, white, black, pinto, and flat. Through overharvesting in the past century, loss of kelp habitat, and disease, all seven species found in southern California have been nearly wiped out.

As the primary sea urchin competitor, these large underwater snails play an important role in maintaining healthy kelp ecosystems and have been sought after by Californians for their cultural and economic importance throughout history.

Unfortunately, overharvesting and disease led to significant decreases in abalone populations during the end of the 20th century. In 1997, commercial fisheries for all species were closed in California and only one highly restricted recreational fishery for red abalone was permitted north of San Francisco Bay. This northern recreational fishery was closed in late 2017 as urchin barrens emerged along the north coast and abalone died from starvation.

Project Highlights

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Progress to Date

  • Construction of two aquaculture laboratories
  • Improved spawning techniques
  • Improved husbandry techniques
  • Outplanting of 2,700 juvenile red abalone
  • Outplanting of 3,200 juvenile white abalone

Actively Researching Ways to Recover Natural Abalone Populations

The Bay Foundation (TBF), in coordination with government agencies, has been working to recover abalone to the kelp forests of the Santa Monica Bay since 2010, introducing red, green, and white abalone stocks throughout southern California. Despite fishery closures for the past 20 years, wild populations of abalone have not increased on their own. The low population densities of abalone, in combination with warming waters, disease, increased competition from urchins, and kelp forest loss, have made it difficult for abalone to recover without direct restoration efforts. Therefore, TBF and partners are actively researching wild and captive spawning techniques, methods for raising abalone in aquaculture facilities, and approaches for outplanting abalone back into the wild to recover natural populations.

A Statewide Collaboration to Save the Federally Endangered White Abalone

The White Abalone Recovery Project (WARP) is a statewide collaboration dedicated to the restoration of the federally endangered white abalone to the rocky reefs of southern California. Using red and green abalone as proxies for white abalone has allowed researchers to develop and refine infrastructure, culturing and outplanting techniques, and to evaluate habitat suitability, while simultaneously restoring all species to local rocky reefs.

Progress to Date

  • Construction of two aquaculture laboratories
  • Improved spawning techniques
  • Improved husbandry techniques
  • Outplanting of 2,700 juvenile red abalone
  • Outplanting of 3,200 juvenile white abalone

Actively Researching Ways to Recover Natural Abalone Populations

The Bay Foundation (TBF), in coordination with government agencies, has been working to recover abalone to the kelp forests of the Santa Monica Bay since 2010, introducing red, green, and white abalone stocks throughout southern California. Despite fishery closures for the past 20 years, wild populations of abalone have not increased on their own. The low population densities of abalone, in combination with warming waters, disease, increased competition from urchins, and kelp forest loss, have made it difficult for abalone to recover without direct restoration efforts. Therefore, TBF and partners are actively researching wild and captive spawning techniques, methods for raising abalone in aquaculture facilities, and approaches for outplanting abalone back into the wild to recover natural populations.

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