A restoration program including wild population surveys, captive breeding, health monitoring, recovery site preparation, and recovery modeling has been implemented to restore white abalone (Haliotis sorenseni) populations in California. White abalone once supported a lucrative fishery and are now endangered, nearing extinction at less than 1% of baseline abundances. Recent deep water surveys indicate that populations continue to decline with no signs of recruitment, despite the closure of the fishery in 1996. Four sites with artificial reefs (n=12/site) in optimal white abalone habitat were established. No wild white abalone have been found at these sites. Captive abalone were spawned in the spring of each year from 2012 to 2015. Each year, the production of 1-y-old abalone has increased in the captive breeding program from approximately 20 in 2012, to 150 in 2013 and an estimated 2,000 in 2014. In 2015, the breeding program reached two milestones: (1) most successful spawning season to date and (2) the hatchery distributed 200 captive-reared abalone to 4 partner institutions within the White Abalone Recovery Consortium (WARC). The WARC is made up of federal and state agencies, universities, public aquaria, and aquaculture organizations, all committed to white abalone restoration. The next steps for the program include expanding the captive breeding program to increase production, monitoring abalone health and genetic diversity, and conducting stocking studies to enhance growth and survival in the ocean. The goal of the stocking program is to create a reproductive population in the wild to bring white abalone back from the brink of extinction.
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Vol. 35 • No. 3