Black Abalone
Haliotis cracherodii

Physical Description

  • It has a relatively smooth oval-shaped shell, with five to nine holes used to breathe, remove waste, and reproduce
  • Relatively small compared with most of the other abalone species
  • The coloration is dark brown, dark green, dark blue or almost black
  • Black-colored body (foot and tentacles) that can be seen around the edge of the shell
  • Can grow up to 8 inches

Range

  • From Mendocino County, California to Cabo San Lucas, Baja California, Mexico

Habitat

  • Low intertidal zone, rocky substrates
  • Up to 20 feet deep
  • Typically found wedged into crevices, cracks, and holes during low tide 

Diet

  • Drift algae, kelp, giant kelp, feather boa kelp, bull kelp

Predators

  • Eggs and larvae eaten by filter-feeders
  • Juveniles and adults eaten by crabs, lobsters, octopuses, sea stars, fish, sea otters, and predatory snails
  • Humans have harvested black abalones along the California Coast for at least 10,000 years. 

Interesting Facts

  • This used to be the most abundant large marine mollusk on the west coast of North America, numbering in the millions, but now, because of overfishing and the Withering Syndrome, it has much declined in population and the IUCN Red List has classed the black abalone as Critically Endangered.
  • Fishing for black abalone has been illegal in California since 1993, but they are still often caught by poachers

Sources: IUCN Red List; NOAA Fisheries; World Register of Marine Species; FishTech.com; UC Santa Cruz

Photo: Laurel Bartels

NOAA’s Southwest Fisheries Science Center here in La Jolla is researching abalone and how to help them recover.

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