NOAA Proposes Regulations to Protect Black Abalone

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries Service published in the Federal Register on Jan. 11 a proposed rule to list black abalone, a marine mollusk, as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. The proposal comes after NOAA Fisheries Service considered the report of a scientific review team concluding that the species is at risk of extinction.

"The scientific review team reported major declines in the population of black abalone, especially in the areas around the Channel Islands off Southern California," said Rod McInnis, southwest regional administrator for the National Marine Fisheries Service. "These proposed regulations seek federal protection for black abalone and request input from the public in determining what areas might be included as critical habitat for the species."

Black abalone once were plentiful in the intertidal waters from Northern Baja California, Mexico, to Monterey, Calif. The species was utilized by early California natives and peaked as a commercial fishery in the state in 1973 with almost two million pounds harvested.

Since the 1980s, black abalone abundance has plummeted, primarily from a bacterial disease known as withering syndrome. Other causes of the rapid population decline are likely due to historical overfishing, poaching and natural predation.

The proposed rule may be found at: swr.nmfs.noaa.gov. Comments on the proposed rule must be received within 90 days after date of publication in the Federal Register.

Comments may be submitted electronically to www.regulations.gov, by fax at 562-980-4027, Attn: Melissa Neuman, or by mail to Chief, Protected Resources Division, Southwest Region, National Marine Fisheries Service, 501 West Ocean Blvd., Suite 4200, Long Beach, CA, 90802-4213.

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