Suit to Be Filed to Protect Habitat for California's Endangered Black Abalone

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Catherine Kilduff, (415) 644-8580

Suit to Be Filed to Protect Habitat for California's Endangered Black Abalone

Global Warming and Ocean Acidification Push Black Abalone Toward Extinction

SAN FRANCISCO - Today the Center for Biological Diversity filed an official notice
of its intent to sue the National Marine Fisheries Service for its
failure to designate critical habitat for the endangered black abalone.
On January 14, 2009, black abalone was listed as an endangered species
under the Endangered Species Act. With that listing, federal law
requires protection of critical habitat for the abalone. Today's notice
of intent to sue must be sent prior to filing a lawsuit in federal
court.

"Critical habitat protections have a proven
track record helping endangered species to survive," said Catherine
Kilduff, a staff attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity.
"Species with critical habitat are twice as likely to be recovering as
species that don't have it. Black abalone is on the cusp of extinction,
and any further delay of federal habitat protection may well seal the
species' fate."

Listed as endangered in response to
a petition filed by the Center for Biological Diversity, black abalone
populations have declined as much as 99 percent since the early 1970s.
Experts predict that black abalone will be extinct within three
decades, the average life span of black abalone. The combined effects
of overfishing, disease, global warming, and ocean acidification have
decimated black abalone populations.

"The
disappearance of black abalone along the California coast is a warning
that our oceans are in trouble," said Kilduff. "Habitat protections are
needed improve the black abalone's chances for survival, especially in
a high CO2 world."

Once
occurring at densities of up to 120 per square meter, the black abalone
was among the most common and visible invertebrates in Southern
California tidepools and sustained a valuable commercial fishery.
Overfishing initially depleted the population, and now the outbreak and
spread of a disease called withering syndrome has caused black abalone
virtually to disappear from the Southern California mainland and many
areas of the Channel Islands. Warming waters due to climate change are
causing the disease to spread and become more virulent. Meanwhile,
ocean acidification threatens to dissolve the abalone's protective
shell and impair its growth and reproduction.   

Congress
has emphasized the importance of critical habitat under the Endangered
Species Act by stating that "the ultimate effectiveness of the
Endangered Species Act will depend on the designation of critical
habitat." Recent studies have shown that species with critical habitat
are twice as likely to be recovering as species without.

The
National Marine Fisheries Service, by law, had one year from listing
the endangered black abalone to identify critical habitat. Today the
Fisheries Service failed to meet its mandatory deadline.

More information on the black abalone is available at
http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/species/invertebrates/black_abalone/index.html

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At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature - to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law, and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters, and climate that species need to survive.

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