Federal status: Endangered
Point Conception to Northern Baja
The white abalone is a large sea snail with a thin, light oval shell that may be up to 25 cm long. It has elevated pores across the surface. The interior of the abalone’s shell is pearly white.
Habitat & Behavior
The white abalone is the deepest dwelling of the eight California abalone species – it occurs in coastal waters between 20-65 meters deep. White abalone are found in open rock or boulder habitat that is interspersed with sand channels. They may live up to 40 years.
Over-fishing resulted in a population reduction of 99% for the white abalone since 1950. It is estimated that approximately 1,600 individuals remain, and it was once expected that without intervention, the species would go extinct by 2010. Currently, there is concern that the small populations still existing in the wild may be extremely susceptible to withering syndrome disease.
Harvesting or collecting of white abalone was declared illegal in 1997, and the species was listed as federally endangered in 2001. Recovery would be greatly aided by increased captive breeding and reintroduction efforts.
Where can you spot it?
Given the species’ rarity, and its preference for deeper water, it is difficult to observe it in the wild. However, specimens may be viewed at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach.
- NOAA Fisheries. White Abalone.