December 16, 2009
After the December 7, 2009 post about the Eastern oyster’s (Crassostrea virginica) decline in the Chesapeake Bay, Dr. Kelly Goodwin, a scientist at NOAA Southwest Fisheries Science Center (SWFSC), informed me of a parallel story for California abalone species. Dr. Goodwin says:
The peak decades for the commercial harvest of California abalone occurred after WWII; however, concerns about overharvest and localized extinction were noted as early as 1913. Currently no commercial abalone harvest of any species is allowed in California, and recreational harvest is allowed only for red abalone (Haliotis rufescens) north of San Francisco, via free diving and with low bag limits.
[Aside from overharvesting] ocean warming can have profound effects on abalone populations due to complex direct and indirect effects. Thermal stress can result in direct mortality and can also exacerbate the effects of disease.
NOAA is actively involved in the spawning and rearing of abalone species. As part of the recovery efforts for white abalone, the SWFSC has been developing culture techniques for pink abalone, H. corrugata, a close relative of the white abalone. Pink abalone serve as a surrogate species that can be used to test methods of disease detection, disease treatment, and disease prevention without the risk of using an endangered species.