Spawning endangered white abalone

Photo credit: NOAA

Tomorrow, July 12th from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Cabrillo Marine Aquarium (CMA) will attempt to spawn white abalone and members of the public are invited to watch!

Why is this exciting? Because in the wild, white abalone are considered to be reproductively extinct; meaning there are too few living too far apart in the ocean to successfully reproduce.

CMA staff will attempt to cryogenically freeze and store white abalone eggs and sperm to be used to grow baby white abalones in the future and ultimately help bring white abalone back from the brink of extinction. This spawning event is part of a broader team effort to help grow, restock, and restore white abalone in the wild in collaboration with Aquarium of the Pacific and California’s Department of Fish and Game.

But why are white abalone endangered and on the verge of extinction? Here’s a little back story from the Center for Biological Diversity website: “Hidden in cracks and crevasses off the coast of California, the white abalone avoided detection by commercial fisheries well into the 20th century. But once the harvest of this sticky-footed marine snail began, it was decimated in the blink of an ecological eye.”

Fishing for white abalones is not even close to a challenge since they are marine snails and move very slow. And now the white abalone has the dubious distinction of being the first marine invertebrate to be officially listed as endangered in 2001.

If you live in the Los Angeles area, stop by Cabrillo Marine Aquarium in San Pedro tomorrow and see an endangered species potentially saved from extinction, not a bad way to spend the day…

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