California abalone Haliotis spp., listed as species of concern, have been slow to recover, after 22 years of fishery closure, or are not recovering at all because of low-density populations and recruitment failure. It is not known if there is successful recruitment in populations in the wild in Southern California. This work examines, for the first time, whether newly settled abalones (<3 mm) are present in the wild at Santa Catalina Island to determine if recruitment is occurring. Natural cobbles with crustose coralline algae cover were sampled for recently settled abalones at two sites and at three depths over the reproductive season of green and pink abalone. A total of 128 abalone recruits (Haliotis spp.) were found over a cumulative rock surface area of 7.47 m2, on 325 cobbles, for a total recruitment density of 17.14 recruits per m2. Abalone recruits ranged in size from 220 to 2,120 µm, with an average recruit size of 490 ± 20 µm (mean ± SE, n = 124). Recruitment was similar across depths (2–4, 6–8, and 10–12 m) but differed between the two study sites, and was highest in June and September. Genetic work is needed to confirm species identification of the new recruits; however, they were most likely green abalone which would be consistent with the signs of green abalone recovery at the island. This work quantifies abalone settlement in Southern California, confirming successful recruitment. These methods can aid future restoration efforts empowering managers and restoration practitioners to monitor and quantify recruitment dynamics for abalones in California.
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