Project Year: 2014 - Present
Background: Pinto 'Northern' abalone (Haliotis kamtschatkana) is the only known indigenous abalone species in Washington State. Since 1992, pinto abalone populations have continued to significantly decline, despite closing the recreational fishery in 1994. There has never been a commercial fishery for abalone in Washington State. Pinto abalone are considered functionally extinct in Washington State waters and have been federally listed as a "Species of Concern" since 2004. Abalone are broadcast spawners, meaning they release sperm and eggs into the water column, so there must be other abalone in close proximity for successful fertilization. It is believed that the remaining pinto abalone densities in the Salish Sea are too far below the threshold to facilitate the reproduction necessary for the population to recover on its own. Recovery without human intervention appears unlikely.
Project Description: Restoration efforts for pinto abalone in Washington State are underway including outplanting of captive-bred juveniles. Puget Sound Restoration Fund (PSRF) leads a strong collaborative team of organizations, government agencies, universities and tribes pursuing recovery strategies for pinto abalone. Since 2003, the restoration group has been investigating tools including conservation aquaculture and captive breeding, juvenile and larval outplanting, agreggation and other strategies. In 2014, Skagit MRC partnered with PSRF to build upon ongoing research and restoration efforts for pinto abalone through a grant from the Puget Sound Partnership with federal US Envirnomental Protection Agency funding. View the PSRF Recovery Plan for Pinto Abalone in Washington State. Learn more at www.pintabalone.com.
Pinto Abalone Outplanting: The first restoration outplant of juvenile pinto abalone seed in Washington State occurred in 2009, when 1200 abalone were introduced to the San Juan Islands. An additional 2100 animals were outplanted in 2011. In 2014, approximately 1,500 juvenile pinto abalone introduced to four locations near Fidalgo Island in Skagit County. In early March of 2015, Skagit MRC collaborated with PSRF, Washington State Deaprtment of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and Western Washington University (WWU)/Shannon Point Marine Center (SPMC) to outplant an additional 2,000 genetically diverse juvenile abalone seed at the four established locations near Fidalgo Island, and two new locations to the north of Fidalgo Island. The additional outplanting will continue to build a sustainable population here by increasing both the density and genetic diversity of abalone on the site.
Pinto Abalone Restoration Monitoring: Preliminary monitoring results indicate the abalone are growing larger in size and density with their numbers doubling and spreading beyond the four original plots near Fidalgo Island. Skagit MRC is partnering with the PSRF to continue monitoring the abalone for growth, signs of natural recruitment, density, and survivorship of this most recent introduction through the spring and summer months in 2015.
Passive Integrated Transponders Research: In 2013, 50 sub-adult abalone were tagged with Passive Integrated Transponders and introduced to an experimental area near Fidalgo Island. Skagit MRC is partnering with PSRF to collect data on the 50 tagged abalone to research long-term tag recovery and survival along with continued testing of several different underwater tag readers. These data will be provided to WDFW and National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to build upon ongoing research and restoration efforts.
Skagit MRC's pinto abalone restoration work has been federally funded in part by the US Environmental Protection Agency via the Puget Sound Partnership through a grant awarded to the Northwest Straits Marine Conservation Initiative and the Skagit MRC.