Overfished and overheated in warming waters, abalone get a little help from researchers

Abalone diving is off-limits in California until 2026 after decades of overfishing. But the giant sea snail is also at risk from warming and more acidic waters, resulting changes in its kelp diet, and mudslides. That’s where researchers at the University of California at Davis’ marine laboratory in Bodega Bay come in, reports The San Francisco Chronicle. Kristin Aquilino, who heads its white abalone project, describes the lab as an “abalone fertility clinic” that aims to re-create the best conditions for the animals to reproduce. This is no small task: Breeding in captivity only started in 2001, when white abalone got endangered species status. And the light, water, food, and temperature need to be just right. Researchers are using ultrasound technology to figure out when males and females are ready. But science doesn’t always triumph: Two dozen abalone expected to spawn recently didn’t. “Maybe they were feeling the pandemic stress,” said Aquilino, or the pressure to “perform.” 

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