Abalone protections proposed for California shores


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More than a year after putting the black abalone on the endangered species list, federal wildlife regulators have published their proposed plan for setting aside critical habitat to protect the once-common marine gastropod.

The proposal, published in the Federal Register on Tuesday, sets aside about 150 square miles [Corrected: A previous version of this post said the area was 250 square miles] of rocky coastal areas from the ‘mean higher high water mark’ to about 20-foot depths, including:


  1. From Del Mar Landing Ecological Reserve to Point Bonita
  2. From the southern point at the mouth of San Francisco Bay to Natural Bridges State Beach
  3. From Pacific Grove to Cayucos
  4. From Montaña de Oro State Park to just south of Government Point
  5. Palos Verdes Peninsula from the Palos Verdes/Torrance border to Los Angeles Harbor
  6. The Farallon Islands;
  7. Año Nuevo Island
  8. San Miguel Island
  9. Santa Rosa Island
  10. Santa Cruz Island
  11. Anacapa Island
  12. San Nicolas Island
  13. Santa Barbara Island
  14. Catalina Island
  15. San Clemente Island

Notably, the plan would leave out -- largely for economic reasons -- a stretch from Corona del Mar to Dana Point. The National Marine Fisheries Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said the economic impact of including that area outweighed the benefit to be gained by including it in the critical habitat.

Designation of the critical habitat areas came in response to a lawsuit by the Center for Biological Diversity.

Activities that negatively affect the population of black abalone would come under tighter scrutiny in the identified areas. Those activities include coastal construction, dredging, sand replenishment, agriculture, oil and gas production and exploration, construction of desalination plants, and operation of power and sewage plants, among others.

The agencies are soliciting comments, due by Nov. 29.

Commercial harvesting of black abalone is banned in California, but regulators have established a red abalone season, north of San Francisco Bay, for free-diving sport fishermen: three per day, 24 per person per year, from April through November, excluding July.

-- Geoff Mohan