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Abalone, Vancouver Island, BC
Abalone, Vancouver Island, BC, Photo By Bud Logan

Northern abalone are quite beautiful. They have thin shells, oval in shape, with a greenish upper surface, sometimes marked with red, blue or white. They tend to be covered with various organisms. The interior is like mother of pearl in color but with a faint pink and green sheen. There is a series of rimmed holes on the shell that allow water to pass over their gills.

Due to serious over-harvesting, the Pacific Northwest is closed to the harvesting of abalone. They are protected in Canada under the federal species at risk act. Illegal harvest is considered to be the most significant threat to the northern abalone recovery. Please report any sightings of illegal harvesting.

Despite the overall ban on harvesting, they have continued to decline and show no signs of recovery. They have been assigned a threatened status by the Committee on the Status of endangered wildlife in Canada. This was in April 1999. In June 2003, they were listed and protected as threatened under the species at risk act.

There are two reasons for the decline of these beautiful shellfish. The number 1 reason is poaching and it continues to be the main problem.  Mature individuals like to live in shallow water, thus they are easily accessible to illegal harvesters.  Enforcement is difficult and abalone populations will likely remain low or more likely continue to decline in most areas of B.C. because of this.

The number 2 reason is the sea otters numbers are increasing. The protection of the sea otter on the coast of British Columbia has been successful in bringing their numbers back from the edge of extinction. They love these shellfish. However, abalone and otters can survive together, but the abalone will only survive in small numbers, those with shells encrusted with other organisms will have the best chance of living to maturity and reproducing.

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