The extraordinary effort to save the white abalone _ kqed science

A male white abalone that was collected in October 2016. New york food blog He arrived at Bodega Marine Lab in December 2016 and only survived two months. New orleans restaurants french quarter Scientists are trying to figure out why he died.

New york food and wine festival 2016 ( Maggie Carson Jurow)

On a rainy winter evening, biologist Kristin Aquilino was rummaging through the trunk of her pickup truck in the Bodega Marine Lab parking lot. New york city vegan restaurants She was looking for a rubber spatula—a tool she needed to pry a recently captured white abalone from inside an ice chest brimming with seawater.

Aquilino had driven the rare animal 385 miles from Los Angeles, where it was captured off the coast, and where small numbers of this endangered species can still be found. She was about to introduce the 7-inch marine snail to its new home, a research facility at UC Davis’ Bodega Marine Lab in Bodega Bay.

Kristen Aquilino searches for a spatula so she can remove a wild-caught white abalone from inside a cooler that transported the animal from Los Angeles to San Francisco. Restaurants open late night near me (Maggie Carson Jurow)

Now Aquilino had the unenviable task of trying to pry loose the creature’s squishy orange foot without injuring it. New york vegan restaurants Any nick to this male abalone’s flesh, or chip to its shell, could cause the snail to bleed uncontrollably since its fluid doesn’t clot.

“I’ve been studying these animals for years and this is one of the few wild white abalone I’ve seen,” says Aquilino, an abalone expert at the Bodega Marine Lab.

That’s because there are more white abalone living in captivity than there are in the wild. New orleans breakfast restaurants And the mollusk in Aquilino’s hands is the first wild white abalone scientists have collected from the ocean in more than a decade.

These rare creatures are incredibly difficult for divers to find in the deep waters where they live.

“We’ve been working for six to seven years to find loner abalone along the coast,” says fish biologist Dave Witting from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

A wild white abalone was covered in so much algae that scientists say he was “extremely hard” to find. Restaurants near me new orleans (Maggie Carson Jurow)

“We spoke to old abalone divers who are long retired now, but, basically we picked their brains and found some locations,” says Witting, who collected the male abalone that Aquilino drove to Bodega Marine Lab. Mexican restaurants open late near me “ He was extremely hard to find,” says Witting. Soul food restaurants in new orleans “ It looked like a fuzzy rock, it was very well camouflaged.”

Not only was the abalone difficult to spot, but Witting needed a special Endangered Species Act permit to collect him—a permit that took two years to acquire. Fast food restaurants with play areas So the animal’s arrival at Bodega Marine Lab was historic.

“This is a big moment,” said Aquilino. “They will go extinct in 10 to 15 years if there’s not a program to place them back in the wild.”

Aquilino gingerly placed the snail inside a bright blue bucket at the lab, where her 12-person research team runs a captive breeding program to protect white abalone from going extinct.

Like all new abalone that arrive, he received a nickname: abalone 314 or “Pi.” Researchers were hoping Pi’s arrival would introduce new DNA into the aging captive population, creating stronger offspring with more genetic diversity.

A free diver searches for abalone off the California coast. Organic food restaurants near me (Ken Bailey)

White abalone was once a delicacy at California seafood restaurants, the most highly prized of all abalone species for its soft meat. Best seafood restaurants in atlanta Then it disappeared from menus in 1993 when the fishery was closed due to overfishing.

Buzz Owen, a retired commercial and recreational abalone diver, recalls his abundant abalone catches back in the ’50s and ’60s.

“There was no limit on the number you could take,” says Owen.

“My record was in 1961. Good food in san diego After diving for nine hours near Catalina Island when I caught 83 dozen including some whites and greens and pinks. Best seafood restaurants in chicago “That didn’t even dent this population.”

White abalone was so popular that it was nearly eaten to extinction. Best food places in chicago These shells sit outside a Monterey market in 1930. Best seafood restaurants in miami beach (Richard S. Best seafood restaurants in miami Crocker/Online Archive of California)

Size limits on what divers could catch were intended to protect abalone so they could mature and reproduce. Best seafood restaurants in wildwood nj But it wasn’t enough to prevent the numbers from dwindling to a crisis point. Good food places around me The scattered survivors were too far apart for their ejected sperm and eggs to mingle, so spawning was rarely successful.

The government eventually realized closing the fishery wasn’t enough, so they made collection of all abalone a federal crime in 1997. Best soul food restaurants in nyc (One exception for abalone diving remains: there’s still a legal, recreational red abalone fishery north of San Francisco.)

Then in 2001, white abalone became the first marine invertebrate to receive federal protection as an endangered species after the population had declined by almost 99 percent.

The success—or failure—of white abalone now depends on the breeding program at the Bodega Lab, and six other organizations, including the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and NOAA, that support the effort.

During the first captive breeding attempt at UC Santa Barbara in 2001, the parent abalone created 100,000 juveniles, but almost all of them died due to a fatal wasting disease called withering syndrome.

In 2003, the Channel Islands Marine Resource Institute in Santa Barbara bred the abalone again and after the Bodega lab received a permit in 2011, it bred animals in 2012.

Captive breeding was finally turning a corner. Best seafood restaurants in nyc Between 2012 and 2014, the number of abalone that survived to be juveniles increased threefold.

At three months old, abalone are only a couple of millimeters long.

There are now 8,000 juveniles living in captivity at Bodega’s lab. Fast food restaurants in canada They haven’t been released into the wild yet because scientists still need to test methods for introduction into the ocean—an environment the animals have never experienced.

“We’re in a make-or-break situation right now with the wild population,” says Aquilino. Best seafood restaurants in houston “We put them in this mess, so it’s up to us to save them.”

When Pi arrived at the Bodega Lab, Aquilino was excited about breeding him in March. Best soul food restaurants in atlanta White abalone only spawn once a year so timing is critical. Best seafood restaurants in dallas It would be the first breeding of a newly collected abalone in more than a decade.

But even hopeful stories don’t turn out to be happy ones. Largest fast food chain in the world In early February, 15 weeks after Pi’s arrival to Bodega, Aquilino sent an email with “cruddy news.” He didn’t survive. Soul food restaurants in los angeles By 2019, scientists may be ready to release of thousands of young white abalone into the wild.

“It was obviously very sudden and unexpected. Best lunch places in san diego He looked fine on Tuesday and then a day later he was no longer holding on to the side of the tank.”

In late February, Jim Moore, a California Department of Fish and Wildlife shellfish health expert, examined the animal’s tissue, and says “Pi” may have developed a foot infection, though he couldn’t be sure.

“We may never be able to pinpoint cause of death, that is just the way it is sometimes,” says Moore.

But there was some good news for Aquilino and her team. Best food places in san diego A female white abalone recently captured off the coast of Southern California arrived at the Bodega lab just before Pi’s death—just in time for breeding. Famous food in los angeles They named her “Green 312.”

She was one of 13 animals that successfully spawned on March 1. Good restaurants in san diego For the scientists, it was a big deal.

“ Pretty cool that there are new genes in the program for the first time in 14 years!!!” Aquilino said in an email to colleagues a day after the event.

Green 312 and four other female abalone from the original captive group produced about 14 million eggs. Best restaurants in san diego ca By the next morning, scientists woke up to find millions of embryos.

“I was lucky enough to witness one of the embryos from the wild female hatching under the scope this morning, Aquilino wrote, “which was a first for me and super duper exciting.”

Bodega Marine Lab and six other agencies have a five-year plan and expect to be ready in about two years for a release of thousands of young white abalone into the wild.

“We now have enough captive white abalone to start testing the best methods for reintroduction to the wild once a permit is in place,” says Aquilino, “and we’re hopeful.”

Lindsey Hoshaw is an interactive producer for KQED Science. Best mexican food in san diego Before joining KQED, Lindsey was a science correspondent for The New York Times, The Boston Globe, Forbes and Scientific American. Best food places in los angeles On Twitter @lindseyhoshaw

Support of KQED Science is provided by HopeLab, S. Best lunch places in los angeles D. Best indian food in chicago Bechtel, Jr. Best lunch places in new orleans Foundation, The Dirk and Charlene Kabcenell Foundation, The Vadasz Family Foundation, John S. Best food places near me and James L. Good fast food places near me Knight Foundation, Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, Smart Family Foundation and the members of KQED. Soul food restaurants in miami Follow KQED Science

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