Abalone, single shelled, marine intertidal snails, are a sessile species- they do not move about in the ocean, and are broadcast spawners-they release eggs and sperm into the water where fertilization occurs externally. Juvenile abalone eat small algal species called diatoms. As they mature, they feed on seaweed mainly kelp. Abalone species are identified by differences in visible characteristics, such as number of open respiratory pores, coloration and form of the shell, body, tentacles, and shell size.

Seven species of abalone occur off the West Coast of North America, including white, black, green, pink, pinto, red, and flat abalone, all of which also occur within Californian waters. Abalone once supported important commercial and recreational fisheries in California, but the impacts of overfishing and disease have prompted the listing of two species of abalone, white and black, as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. Three additional species of abalone (pink, green, pinto) are also part of the Species of Concern Program, which supports proactive conservation and research.  

Threats to abalone species include disease, low population densities in the wild (Allee effect), and illegal take (e.g., poaching). NOAA Fisheries' primary actions to alleviate threats to, and promote the recovery of, abalone include helping to eliminate illegal take, promoting habitat protection through regulations, education and cooperation with law enforcement, supporting and taking part in research to fill gaps in our understanding of the species' conservation and recovery needs, and working with stakeholders to develop safe and cost-effective methods for rebuilding abalone populations in California.

For more information please contact NOAA Fisheries Abalone Recovery Coordinator, Melissa Neuman at: melissa.neuman@noaa.gov or 562.980.4115. Join our mailing list to receive updates on abalone recovery, policy, and research.