The Santa Barbara Natural History Museum’s new exhibit “Saving the White Abalone” follows local conservation efforts to reintroduce the large sea snails to the wild through captive breeding. The exhibit features live animals.
White abalone once thrived for millions of years in the Santa Barbara Channel. But because of overfishing, the population declined by 99.99% from its levels in the 1970s. The white abalone became the first marine invertebrate to be listed under the Endangered Species Act. Their numbers are now so low that they can no longer breed in the wild.
Conservationists are trying to breed and nurture young white abalone, then release them into the wild. The process is slow because abalone can take years to reach full reproductive maturity.