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Protection of the endangered black abalone

On Wednesday, federal wildlife officials designated a 140-mile zone along the California coast as critical habitat for the endangered black abalone (Haliotis cracherodii). Black abalone are hard-shelled, edible marine snails, the number of which fell dramatically in the 1980s, mostly as the result of a bacterial disease called withering syndrome. Before the ’80s, black abalone were abundant from the northern coast of California to the tip of Baja California. The decline may have been exacerbated by warming coastal waters, overfishing and poaching, and power plant discharges, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA’s) Fisheries Service.

In the areas of critical habitat, which extend from the Del Mar Landing Ecological Reserve in Sonoma County south to the Palos Verdes Peninsula and Catalina Island, any project that goes before federal agencies or that receives federal funding will be reviewed to ensure that they do not threaten the habitat of the black abalone. The ruling will go into effect next month. Black abalone was listed as an endangered species in 2009, which requires that the government set aside as much critical habitat as possible to assist the recovery of the species.

According to the NOAA release, an area of rocky habitat from Corona del Mar State Beach to Dana Point was excluded from the critical habitat designation, because “the economic benefits of exclusion outweigh the benefits of inclusion, and the exclusion will not result in the extinction of the species.”

Black abalone are one of the seven abalone species that live along the California coast. Black abalone were harvested commercially back to the 1800s, and their commercial harvest peaked in the 1970s. After landings plummeted by 95%, the fishery was closed in 1993.

-Bill at

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