Dramatic decline of endangered white abalone has been witnessed by NOAA researchers.
Scientists from NOAA have published a study report on the sudden declining of endangered white abalone off the coast of Southern California. Kevin Stierhoff, research fisheries biologist in NOAA, said that the research was started in 2002 using underwater remotely operated vehicle (ROV). He said that in the absence of fishing the population of white abalone should have increased but the latest assessment indicates that the white abalone population has continued to decline by approximately 78 per cent over the last ten years.
White abalone are “broadcast spawners,” projecting eggs and sperm into the water column at the same time for fertilisation. If there is not a suitable partner close by, it is unlikely any offspring will be produced. John Butler, a research biologist at NOAA’s Southwest Fisheries Science Center, said that unfortunately white abalone grow larger, older and further apart with no evidence of significant numbers of offspring for the last ten years.
According to scientists there is a serious need to enhance populations of white abalone by out-planting individuals into the wild using a captive breeding program. Currently, University of California Davis Bodega Bay Marine Laboratory oversees a number of white abalone breeding facilities in California through a special permit from NOAA to work with the endangered species. Melissa Neuman, recovery coordinator for white abalone, has commented that having successful breeding program is critical to the survival of the species as without human intervention, the species could go extinct within our lifetimes.