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NOAA and Partners Are “Planting” Long-Lost Abalone in the Sea

In mid-June, NOAA biologists released more than 700 young green abalone into newly restored kelp forest areas near Palos Verdes, California. This was the first time in more than a decade that juvenile abalone have been “outplanted,” or transplanted from nursery facilities, to the wild in southern California.

All of the juvenile abalone were spawned and reared at The SEA Lab in Redondo Beach, California. They were between two and four years old and a quarter-inch to three inches in size. Microbiologists from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife ran rigorous tests to certify them as disease-free before they were placed into the ocean.

All seven abalone species found along the U.S. West Coast have declined—and some have all but disappeared. Historically, the main cause of abalone’s demise was a combination of overfishing and disease.  Today, other threats like poaching, climate change, oil spills, and habitat degradation, contribute to their decline and could impact the health of future populations.

The recent outplanting was conducted with partners including The Nature Conservancy, The Bay Foundation, and The SEA Lab. It was one of many steps needed to advance the recovery of all abalone.

Methods for rearing and outplanting are first being tested using green abalone because this species is more abundant in the wild. Once the methods are refined, they will be used to recover endangered white and black abalone—species that are currently on the brink of extinction.

Posted July 27, 2015

Diver places pvc tube with juvenile abalone onto rocky reef.