LONG BEACH, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--An endangered species once abundant off California is getting an opportunity to rebound. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in collaboration with the Aquarium of the Pacific, the UC Davis Bodega Marine Laboratory, the Bay Foundation, Paua Marine Research Group (PMRG), the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), and other partners have been collaborating to help save the white abalone from extinction. This is the first time that this federally protected species is being released into the wild.
The Aquarium is a founding partner of the White Abalone Recovery Program and has been working with NOAA for the past eleven years on this project. It is the only public aquarium involved in field activities and research on this species. “This is a historic moment, as a species once on the brink of extinction may finally have a chance to rebound. This is important, not just for white abalone, but for the entire marine ecosystem off Southern California,” said Dr. Sandy Trautwein, Aquarium of the Pacific vice president of animal husbandry.
White abalones reared at the UC Davis lab under this program will be released at undisclosed ocean sites off Southern California in mid-November. Scientific divers from the Aquarium along with divers from NOAA, CDFW, the Bay Foundation, and PMRG will release the white abalones from holding boxes, which were placed at their sites in late October. “Natural recovery is not occurring fast enough or at all for this species to rebound on its own. Fishing and other human activities brought white abalone to the brink of extinction, and now it is our responsibility to recover the first federally protected marine invertebrate,” said Melissa Neuman from NOAA National Marine Fisheries Services’ Abalone Recovery Program.
The Aquarium was one of a small number of facilities that received white abalone adults who would become “parents” to jump-start this breeding program. When the Aquarium joined the program in 2008, only seventy-five white abalones existed under managed care. Today, the list of partners has grown, and now thousands of white abalones produced through collaborative spawning efforts and cultured under the project partners’ care since 2012 are being groomed for future releases.