Diver awarded for locating SoCal’s few white abalone

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA—The National Oceanic and Administrative Administration (NOAA) gave an award to diver Amanda Bird of Paua Marine Research Group for locating some of the few remaining white abalone locations off the Southern California coast, it was recently announced.

Bird earned the Species in the Spotlight Partner Award from NOAA Fisheries for her efforts in spotting various white abalone locations as a professional diver. The white abalone is a critically endangered species.

“White abalone is one of just eight species we’ve identified nationwide for the Species in the Spotlight program,” Sam Rauch, NOAA Fisheries’ Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs said in a released statement. “Thanks to assistance from our partners like Amanda, white abalone recovery is on the verge of being a great success.”

The NOAA Fisheries Species in the Spotlight program, according to the federal agency, is an “initiative to bring imperiled species back from the brink of extinction.

“Part of the challenge in restoring white abalone to its native rocky reef habitat off southern California is finding wild white abalone for breeding in captivity. Bird has applied her diving expertise along the California coast and knowledge of abalone habitat specifically to find and collect several wild specimens in partnership with NOAA Fisheries,” an official statement about the award and Species in the Spotlight program stated.

A breeding program for white abalone is also underway at Bodega Marine Laboratory, according to NOAA Fisheries. Scientists at the laboratory are reintroducing offspring from the breeding program into the wild. The breeding program, which is taking place in captivity, hopes to save white abalone from extinction.

Bird’s work, according to NOAA Fisheries, has helped scientists and researchers monitor and track white abalone once they’ve been reintroduced into the wild.

“Intensely harvested in the 1970s for their culinary value, white abalone all but disappeared from the wild in the 1990s. NOAA Fisheries listed them as endangered in 2001, but they have shown few signs of recovery,” NOAA Fisheries staff said in a released statement.

“The Agency’s Species in the Spotlight initiative has heightened attention and focused efforts on recovering the species,” NOAA Fisheries staff continued in its released statement. “Researchers hope that reintroducing progeny of the captive breeding program into the waters off Southern California as early as this fall will be a turning point for their recovery.”

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