Top Left: Black abalone underwater with foot and tentacles visible; Photo Credit: NPS
Top Right and Bottom: Black abalones in their rocky intertidal habitat; Photo Credits: Jessica Weinberg, NPS

Black abalone (Haliotis cracherodii) are large marine snails with smooth shells colored in shades of dark green, blue, or black. They live in cracks and crevices in the rocky intertidal zone where they eat mostly algae and serve as occasional snacks for other marine creatures like sea otters, fish, and crabs.  Archeological evidence indicates that they were also eaten by Native Americans for more than 10,000 years. They were once common along the West Coast from Mexico to California, but overfishing and a disease discovered in 1986 known as “withering syndrome” have caused massive population declines. The black abalone was officially added to the federal endangered species list in 2009.

The San Francisco Bay area network of national parks contains some of the more northern stretches of black abalone habitat on the West Coast. Recent National Park Service surveys indicate that low numbers of black abalones are occupying parts of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and Point Reyes National Seashore coastlines. Now, the National Park Service is investigating what it can do to help promote the recovery of these depleted black abalone populations.