For Immediate Release, January 11, 2008

Contact: Brendan Cummings, (760) 366-2232 x 304

Black Abalone Proposed as Endangered Species:
Threatened by Overharvesting, Disease and Global Warming

SAN FRANCISCO— The federal government today proposed protecting the black abalone as “endangered” under the Endangered Species Act. The action comes in response to a formal administrative petition filed by the Center for Biological Diversity in December 2006 that sought protection of the species. The black abalone, an intertidal mollusk historically ranging from near the California-Oregon border to Cape San Lucas, Baja California, has declined by as much as 99 percent in most of its range.

Once occurring at densities of up to 120 per square meter, the black abalone was among the most common and visible invertebrates in Southern California tidepools. The black abalone has now virtually disappeared from the Southern California mainland and from many areas of the Channel Islands where it was once most abundant.

The primary drivers of the decline of black abalone are commercial fishing, which severely depleted most populations, followed by the outbreak and spread of a disease called withering syndrome, which has devastated remaining populations in the Channel Islands and Southern California and is continuing to spread northward through the remaining range of the species.

While fishing of black abalone is now banned in California, withering syndrome has yet to be controlled and remains a dire threat to the continued existence of the species. Because the disease is more virulent in warm water, as the sea temperatures off California rise in the face of global warming, the deadly symptoms of withering syndrome are likely to spread to currently unaffected abalone in the northern portion of the species’ range.

“The plight of the black abalone is indicative of what we have done to our oceans,” said Brendan Cummings, ocean program director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The combined effects of overfishing, disease, and global warming have pushing the black abalone to the brink of extinction. Our oceans are in crisis, but if we squarely address this crisis even the most imperiled species, like the black abalone, will have a chance to recover.”

The National Marine Fisheries Service, the federal agency charged with implementing the Endangered Species Act for marine species, has one year to complete its review and issue a final rule to protect the species

Once listed, the black abalone would join the white abalone and elkhorn and stag­horn corals as the only marine invertebrates protected by the Endangered Species Act. Each of the species has achieved legal protection following Center for Biological Diversity petitions.

A copy of the black abalone petition is available at

The National Marine Fisheries Service’s finding issued today is available at

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 40,000 members dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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