December 22, 2011
There are seven species of abalone native to California. Two of those species, white abalone and black abalone, are listed as endangered and three others, including the green abalone, are designated as species of concern under the Endangered Species Act. Because they are considered a delicacy, abalone have suffered from overfishing and frequently do not live in high enough density to successfully reproduce.
These marine mollusks are known for their shells, which are oval shaped and have a metallic, pearlescent sheen on the inside. Abalone feed on kelp and algae and make their homes in rocky tidal areas. They reproduce through spawning, primarily in the summer months.
To aid in the conservation efforts for these animals in Southern California, the Aquarium of the Pacific is conducting an abalone captive rearing and education project. It is funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) Southwest Regional Office and conducted in conjunction with the California Department of Fish and Game. With the support of these two agencies, the Aquarium constructed a first-of-its-kind abalone propagation system.
The Aquarium’s abalone program began in 2008 and is now in its second phase. In the first phase, we completed the propagation system and developed educational materials. Goals for the second phase include successful cultivation of red and white abalone, expanded educational programming, and targeted programming for students in grades nine through twelve. With funds from NMFS, touch exhibits in the Aquarium’s classrooms have been retrofitted to accommodate red abalone.