Do you want the good news or the bad news first? How about both at once: There are now more endangered white abalone in captivity than remain in the wild. While this sadly highlights the critical state of wild white abalone, it also demonstrates the huge success of UC Davis Bodega Marine Laboratory’s White Abalone Captive Breeding Program. Giving to the white abalone program will help UC Davis scientists secure the future for this economically, culturally, and environmentally important species. Check out a short video about the program here: Delicacy of the Deep - Saving White Abalone, and get a 360-degree tour of the laboratory here: UC Davis White Abalone 360 Video.
Intense overfishing of this tasty marine snail earned it a spot on the endangered species list in 2001. With wild white abalone now so far apart from one another that they are unable to reproduce successfully, experts determined that captive breeding and outplanting were the best ways to save the species. After early breeding efforts were hampered by disease, the program headquarters moved to UC Davis Bodega Marine Laboratory in 2011. Between antibiotic cleansing baths and exfoliating, coconut oil and beeswax treatments, our white abalone healthcare plan now reads like a relaxing spa retreat. With healthy animals and a great deal of collaboration among UC Davis faculty, students, postdocs, and staff, as well as outside aquariums and aquaculture farms that helped get the animals “in the mood” for spawning, captive production has skyrocketed, from just a few dozen produced during the 2012 spawning season to thousands in 2014 and each year since.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) now lists white abalone as one of its eight “Species in the Spotlight,” those species most at risk of going extinct in the near future. Happily, captive breeding efforts at UC Davis bring new hope to recovery efforts, and we are excited to start pilot restocking work in the next year or two. While NOAA supports the baseline needs of the White Abalone Recovery Program, we could do much more much faster with your help — and time is of the essence for white abalone, which will likely go extinct in the next 10–15 years without your assistance. From seawater filters and UV sterilization bulbs to spawning chemicals and special tags to identify each baby white abalone, every bit helps. By replacing overhead pipes with towering kelp forests and swapping out submersible pumps for steady ocean swells, we hope our precious Aggie snails might save their species from the verge of extinction.
It’s an incredibly exciting time for UC Davis Bodega Marine Laboratory's White Abalone Captive Breeding Program. We would love for you to be a part of the innovative and collaborative efforts to save this iconic marine species.