The Race to Save California’s Endangered White Abalone

They are the only abalone species that live more than 200 feet deep.

The California coast was once home to millions of white abalone, a sea snail that became a popular delicacy to epicureans. A combination of overconsumption, natural predators and ocean warming has reduced the population to nearly none. In 2001, it became the first marine invertebrate to be listed as a federal endangered species.

According to the Los Angeles Times, “Abalone once were to California what lobster is to Maine and blue crab to Maryland, so plentiful they stacked one on top of another like colorful paving stones. Californians held abalone bakes, spun abalone folk tales, sang abalone love songs. They grew large and hardy and fetched extraordinary prices. One diver once said it was like pulling $100 bills from the seafloor.”

Now that 99% of the population has vanished, scientists, aquarists, farmers and retired divers have worked together to save the white abalone from extinction, and perhaps even stage a comeback. But is it too late?

Read about the white abalone and the threat to its survival here.

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