West Coast abalone species now listed as ‘critically endangered’ or ‘endangered’

Environmental factors impact the species, according to the IUCN Red List

Photo courtesy UC Davis

All West Coast abalone species are listed as critically endangered (red, white, black, green, pink, and flat abalone) or endangered (northern abalone, also known as threaded/pinto abalone) by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.

These listings were based on a West Coast abalones assessment led by Laura-Rogers Bennett, PhD, of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and University of California, Davis (UC Davis).

Abalones have provided nourishment, cultural significance, and ecological benefits for people, wildlife, and the environment. Red abalones have been a mainstay of West Coast shellfish aquaculture industry with a beloved recreational diving fishery in Northern California.

Along the West Coast, these giant sea snails have been impacted by overfishing, the decline of the kelp forest, warming ocean temperatures, and other environmental factors.

Restoring kelp forests and reducing climate impacts are key to helping abalone recover, Dr. Rogers-Bennett says. Kelp is their main food source, and its decline is intricately linked with the abalone population. When weakened by starvation, species are more susceptible to environmental changes like landslides following fires, ocean acidification, and increased storms.

“These populations’ vulnerabilities have increased due to climate change, and that’s what’s pushed them into threatened categories on the IUCN Red List,” Rogers-Bennett says.

The IUCN Red List is considered the world’s most comprehensive inventory of the global conservation status of species. While the listing does not carry a legal requirement to aid imperiled species, it helps guide and inform global conservation and funding priorities, UC Davis reports.

For more information on abalone conservation, click here.

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