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For Immediate Release, October 26, 2011

Contact: Catherine Kilduff, or (415) 644-8580

Sensitive California Shores Protected for Endangered Black Abalone;
Ocean Warming, Acidification Threaten Rare Shellfish

SAN FRANCISCO— The federal government announced protection of 140 square miles (89,600 acres) of rocky California shoreline today for the endangered black abalone. The decision results from a lawsuit by the Center for Biological Diversity to compel habitat protections for the shellfish, which was once common in Southern California tide pools but has declined by 99 percent since the 1970s.

“The growing severity of climate change is clearly stressing wildlife; black abalone’s disappearance from the California coast is a warning sign,” said Catherine Kilduff, a staff attorney at the Center. “Recovery of black abalone requires today’s habitat protections that consider activities causing climate change and ocean acidification.”

While fishing for black abalone is banned in the state, it was historic overfishing that first drove the animal’s numbers down. Now global warming is exacerbating the outbreak and spread of a disease called withering syndrome that has virtually extirpated black abalone from the Southern California mainland and many areas of the Channel Islands. Ocean acidification threatens the abalone’s growth and reproduction and reduces the abundance of coralline algae, required for young abalone settlement and survival. Acidification has contributed to the collapse of oyster production in the Pacific Northwest, and new scientific studies document the sensitivity of abalone larvae to it.

“Numerous threats besiege our coasts — ocean warming, acidification, pollution — and have pushed black abalone to the brink of extinction,” said Kilduff. “Today’s decision will help them and help California’s coastal ecosystems at the same time.”

The critical habitat rule designates intertidal areas along segments of the California coast from Del Mar Landing in Northern California beyond Government Point in Southern California, as well as the Channel Islands. The designation results from the Center’s petition to list black abalone as an endangered species, which occurred on Jan. 14, 2009, and a Center suit filed March 23, 2010, asking the Fisheries Service to designate critical habitat.

According to the federal government’s own data, species with critical habitat protected under the Endangered Species Act are twice as likely to be recovering as those without. Safeguarding black abalone habitat means curbing climate change and ocean acidification. The government must avoid destruction of the abalone’s habitat by permitted activities such as projects with significant greenhouse gas emissions, coastal development, wastewater treatment, pesticide application and livestock operations on federal lands.

More information on the black abalone is available at

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with 320,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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