Highly valued for both their edible muscular foot and mother-of-pearl shell, the pinto abalone population first declined due to overharvesting by both commercial and recreational fisheries. Even after commercial fisheries and most recreational fisheries were closed in the 1990s, pinto abalone populations continued to decline. Today, the one-two punch of rampant historical overfishing—combined with continued illegal and legal harvesting, climate change, and ocean acidification—has pushed this species to the brink of extinction.
A U.S. Endangered Species Act listing is our best hope for protecting this prized species while there is still time to save highly-depleted populations. Listing the pinto abalone as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act will enable better enforcement of harvest bans, increased habitat protection, and other conservation measures that are essential to save this West Coast treasure from extinction.