Management Overview

Black abalone are protected under the Endangered Species Act. NOAA Fisheries is working with many partners to monitor the status and habitats of wild black abalone and protect this species in many ways, with the goal of rebuilding their populations.


Healthy black abalone in the intertidal zone on San Nicolas Island. Photo: NOAA Fisheries/David Witting.

Recovery Planning and Implementation

Recovery Action

NOAA Fisheries recovery planning for black abalone is ongoing, guided by an internal recovery outline prepared in September of 2016 (PDF, 30 pages). 

Critical Habitat

Once a species is listed under the ESA, NOAA Fisheries evaluates and identifies whether any areas meet the definition of critical habitat. Those areas may be designated as critical habitat through a rulemaking process. The designation of an area as critical habitat does not create a closed area, marine protected area, refuge, wilderness reserve, preservation, or other conservation area; nor does the designation affect land ownership. Federal agencies that undertake, fund, or permit activities that may affect these designated critical habitat areas are required to consult with NOAA Fisheries to ensure that their actions do not adversely modify or destroy designated critical habitat.

In October 2011, NOAA Fisheries designated critical habitat for the black abalone.

This designation includes approximately 360 square kilometers of rocky intertidal and subtidal habitat within five segments of the California coast between the Del Mar Landing Ecological Reserve and the Palos Verdes Peninsula, as well as on the Farallon Islands, Año Nuevo Island, San Miguel Island, Santa Rosa Island, Santa Cruz Island, Anacapa Island, Santa Barbara Island, and Santa Catalina Island. Within these areas, the designation refers specifically to those rocky intertidal and subtidal habitats from the mean higher high water line to a depth of -6 meters, as well as the coastal marine waters encompassed by these areas.

View a map of critical habitat for black abalone

Conservation Efforts

Monitoring Black Abalone Populations

We continue to work with many partners at Federal agencies, State agencies, universities, and non-governmental organizations to maintain and expand long-term monitoring programs to evaluate the status and health of black abalone populations. Long-term monitoring has been ongoing throughout the California coast, in some areas since the mid-1970s, providing valuable data on black abalone abundance and density trends over time. These data formed the basis for our understanding of the species’ status and will be essential for tracking the species’ recovery. Specifically, this monitoring will help the species by:

  • Providing data needed to measure long-term population trends and distribution.

  • Tracking the progress of withering syndrome along the coast, particularly during warm water events.

  • Detecting recruitment events, to inform our understanding of the factors affecting black abalone survival, growth, and reproduction.

  • Informing abalone conservation efforts, such as by providing data to evaluate the effectiveness of different restoration tools.

Learn more about how we monitor black abalone populations

Boosting Abalone Populations

Black abalone populations within disease-impacted areas (e.g., southern California) remain at low numbers. Recruitment and increasing numbers have been observed in a few areas, but not at the scale or scope needed for natural recovery. Active restoration efforts may be needed to rebuild populations. We are working with partners to test the effectiveness of different restoration tools to enhance black abalone populations. These tools include:

  • Restoring habitat conditions to promote recruitment of juveniles;

  • Aggregating animals within a local area or translocating animals from one site to another to increase local numbers and the likelihood of successful reproduction; and

  • Developing captive breeding methods to grow black abalone for research and for outplanting to the wild, to restore abalone where they have gone locally extinct or where populations have severely declined.

Investment in disease monitoring, genetic testing and ongoing research on abalone reproduction and recruitment dynamics (e.g., how the distance between individuals affects fertilization success) will be critical to guide enhancement efforts.

Learn more about our work on abalone restoration

Providing Public Outreach and Education

NOAA provided funding and guidance to create an interactive exhibit about abalone at the Aquarium of the Pacific. We also work with local schools in southern California, using presentations and interactive activities to share about the history and culture of black abalone and our current work to monitor, protect, and restore their populations.

Learn more about public outreach and education

Regulatory History

NOAA Fisheries added black abalone to its ESA candidate species list on June 23, 1999. NOAA Fisheries initiated an informal ESA status review of black abalone on July 15, 2003, and a formal review on October 17, 2006. At the same time, we solicited information from the public. The Center for Biological Diversity formally petitioned NOAA Fisheries (PDF, 40 pages) to list the black abalone as threatened or endangered under the ESA on December 21, 2006.

On April 13, 2007, NOAA Fisheries found that listing of black abalone under the ESA may be warranted (PDF, 4 pages).

On January 11, 2008, NOAA Fisheries proposed listing black abalone as endangered.

The species was listed as endangered under the ESA on January 14, 2009.

Key Documents

A complete list of regulatory and management documents for black abalone is available.