The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is soliciting any available data on the pinto abalone, and are seeking public comment on a proposal to list the mollusk as a state endangered species.
Pinto abalone (Haliotis kamtschatkana), also known as the northern abalone, are the only abalone found in Washington state. Long prized as a delicacy, these sea snails have also been valued for their cultural importance, their role in the marine ecosystem, and their iridescent shells.
Research conducted by WDFW between 1992 and 2017 revealed a decline of more than 97 percent in the species abundance in the San Juan Islands, a region of historically healthy populations. The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) listed pinto abalone as a “species of concern” in 2004.
WDFW will conduct public meetings on the proposed state listing in:
Port Townsend Dec. 4 at 6 p.m. at the Northwest Maritime Center, 431 Water St.
Anacortes Dec. 10 at 6 p.m. at the Anacortes Public Library, at 1220 10th St.
The public can also submit comments and information about the species to Michael Ulrich at WDFW via email to vog.aw.wfdnull@hcirlU.leahciM, by phone (360-902-2737), or mail at Fish Program, P.O. Box 43200 Olympia, WA 98504-3200.
Pinto abalone are the focus of a concerted restoration effort by state, federal, tribal, and other partners such as the Puget Sound Restoration Fund in Washington, said Hank Carson, a WDFW research scientist. Our goal is to halt the decline of abalone populations and return them to sustainable levels.
Carson said abalone populations have been declining for decades on the Pacific coast and throughout the world. The pinto abalone’s specific habitat and distribution in relatively shallow water makes them particularly vulnerable to harvest, he said.
Commercial fishing for the species has never been authorized in Washington state, he said, and WDFW closed recreational fishing in abalone in 1994 after continued decline in the abalone population.