Our goal is to raise and outplant hatchery-reared abalone using state-of-the-art techniques to recover a vanishing species and maintain the health of rocky reef habitat.
An iconic species in decline
The pinto abalone is the only abalone species found in Washington waters. This native species has cultural and ecological significance, grazing rock surfaces and maintaining the health of rocky reef habitat and kelp beds. Population declines have been precipitous; the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife (WDFW) documented a ~98% decline from 1992 to 2017, leading WDFW to formally list pinto abalone as a State endangered species in 2019.
Collaborating to restore
In response to signs of population collapse, WDFW, the University of Washington, PSRF and NOAA launched a collaborative effort in 2003 to examine strategies to reverse population declines and establish a conservation aquaculture program that has produced healthy, genetically diverse juveniles for restoration. Since 2009, nearly 37,000 juveniles from our conservation hatchery have been released to rocky reef habitat in the San Juan Islands. These animals, representing over 100 genetically distinct families, were deployed to better understand outplant methods and to rebuild populations at 21 different sites across a wide geographic range.
The path ahead
PSRF and partners are transitioning from research to full-bore restoration based on substantial strides in optimizing hatchery production and outplant strategies. The State has provided critical investment in these efforts. We are supporting capacity-building at WDFW, developing a State abalone recovery plan, establishing and managing grow- out facilities, expanding field work, and bolstering the underlying genetics and disease work. With these actions we have a real chance of rebuilding iconic and important pinto abalone populations in Washington waters.
A male Pinto abalone is induced to spawn, releasing sperm which is collected and used to fertilize eggs in carefully determined hatchery matings.
7 day old pinto abalone
Abalone larvae smaller than a grain of sand are ready to settle out of the water column where they will begin crawling, grazing and growing towards adulthood.
3 week old pinto abalone
A post-larval abalone less than 1 mm in length feeds on benthic diatoms, has eye spots, tentacles, rasping mouth parts called a radula and new shell growth.
Investigating larval seeding as a restoration strategy, the team outplants ~1.5 million genetically diverse larvae in the San Juan Archipelago.
- Washington State Legislature
- Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife
- NOAA: Manchester Research Station, Mukilteo Research Station, Office of Protected Resources – Species of Concern Program
- Washington Department of Natural Resources
- Northwest Straits Commission
- Skagit County Marine Resource Committee
- Katharyn Alvord Gerlich Family Fund at Seattle Foundation
- Anonymous fund at Seattle Foundation
- University of Washington, School of Aquatic & Fishery Sciences
- Western Washington University, Biology Department
- Shannon Point Marine Center, Western Washington University
- SEA Discovery Center, Western Washington University
- Washington Sea Grant
- Carson et al. 2019. The survival of hatchery‐origin pinto abalone Haliotis kamtschatkana released into Washington waters. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems
- Kuehl and Donovan. 2020. Survival, growth, and radula morphology of Haliotis kamtschatkana postlarvae fed six species of benthic diatoms. Aquaculture
- NOAA’s pinto abalone webpage
- Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ northern (pinto) abalone webpage
- Encyclopedia of Puget Sound’s pinto abalone webpage
- SeaDoc Society’s pinto abalone webpage
- The Bay Foundation’s abalone restoration program webpage
- Species in the spotlight: Priority actions (2016-2020), white abalone. NOAA, 2016
- Recovery Plan for Pinto Abalone (Haliotis kamtschatkana) in Washington State. PSRF, 2014
- Pinto abalone final status review. NOAA, 2014
- Recovery effort aims to restore pinto abalone mollusks that once flourished in Salish Sea. The Seattle Times, 2021.
- Report: Pinto abalone in peril. Skagit Valley Herald, 2020
- Delicious and now endangered: Can the pinto abalone make a comeback?, Salish Sea Currents, Encyclopedia of Puget Sound, 2020
- WWU’s Deb Donovan and her students fight to save the Salish Sea’s pinto abalone. Westerntoday. 2019
- Nature Now #408, Reviving Pinto Abalone Population. KPTZ, 2019
- Why it wasn’t enough to just leave the pinto abalone alone. Crosscut. 2019
- Washington’s giant sea snail still needs saving. High Country News. 2019
- Meet Washington’s newest endangered species. KUOW. 2019
- Marine snail gains state endangered species listing. Skagit Valley Herald. 2019
- Abalone endangered list candidate. Port Townsend Leader, 2018
- Skagit County at center of restoration effort for marine snail. Skagit Valley Herald, 2017
- This sea snail is tasty, pretty and poached to the brink. KUOW, 2015
- Saving Pinto Abalone. Port Townsend Marine Science Center, 2020
- The Shellfish Sentinel. Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife, 2019
- Pinto abalone program overview. PSRF, 2019
- Pinto abalone outplanting. PSRF, 2011
- How to restore a species of concern – pinto abalone
- Timeline of pinto abalone restoration: late 1970s-2009
- Pinto abalone factsheet. PSRF, 2011
- Abalone Stickers!