Thursday, January 15, 2009

Once-plentiful abalone put on endangered list

By Zeke Barlow

A rare occurrence in Southern California-black abalone cluster together in a rocky, intertidal crag on San Nicolas Island. (Credit: David Witting, NOAA Restoration Center) 

The black abalone that were once thick in the waters off the California coast earned a dubious distinction today when biologists took the final steps in putting the mollusk on the Endangered Species List.  ...

The wording in the listing of the abalone brings up how global warming may affect the endangered species if ocean temperatures were to rise. ...

The abalone, which were once found in great numbers off the Channel Islands, suffered a one-two punch that led to their rapid decline and population crash in the 1990s, said Melissa Neuman, a fisheries biologist with the National Marine Fisheries Service, which published the listing in the Federal Register today. After 30 days, the listing becomes official.

Years of fishing greatly reduced the population numbers, but it was the “whithering syndrome” that was first found on Santa Cruz Island that dealt the devastating blow to the species, she said.

The disease, which spread rapidly among the population, prevents it from digesting food and the abalone in turn starts to absorb its own body mass, including its foot which attaches it to rocks and reefs.

They are now found in only a few places off the islands and off the mainland to the north. Recent surveys off Anacapa and Santa Cruz islands found about 320 in three places, said Kate Faulkner, chief of resources management of the Channel Islands National Park.

Once-plentiful abalone put on endangered list

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