Northern abalone (Haliotis kamtschatkana) recovery strategy

Official title: Recovery Strategy for Northern Abalone (Haliotis kamtschatkana) in Canada (Final Version)

Northern abalone

cover pic of north abalone

About the Species at Risk Act Recovery Strategy Series

What is the Species at Risk Act (SARA)?

SARA is the Act developed by the federal government as a key contribution to the common national effort to protect and conserve species at risk in Canada. SARA came into force in 2003 and one of its purposes is“to provide for the recovery of wildlife species that are extirpated, endangered or threatened as a result of human activity.”

What is recovery?

In the context of species at risk conservation, recovery is the process by which the decline of an endangered, threatened, or extirpated species is arrested or reversed and threats are removed or reduced to improve the likelihood of the species’ persistence in the wild. A species will be considered recovered when its long-term persistence in the wild has been secured.

What is a recovery strategy?

A recovery strategy is a planning document that identifies what needs to be done to arrest or reverse the decline of a species. It sets goals and objectives and identifies the main areas of activities to be undertaken. Detailed planning is done at the action plan stage.

Recovery strategy development is a commitment of all provinces and territories and of three federal agencies -- Environment Canada, Parks Canada Agency, and Fisheries and Oceans Canada -- under the Accord for the Protection of Species at Risk.  Sections 37–46 of SARA outline both the required content and the process for developing recovery strategies published in this series.

Depending on the status of the species and when it was assessed, a recovery strategy has to be developed within one to two years after the species is added to the List of Wildlife Species at Risk.  Three to four years is allowed for those species that were automatically listed when SARA came into force.

What’s next?

In most cases, one or more action plans will be developed to define and guide implementation of the recovery strategy. Nevertheless, directions set in the recovery strategy are sufficient to begin involving communities, land users, and conservationists in recovery implementation. Cost-effective measures to prevent the reduction or loss of the species should not be postponed for lack of full scientific certainty.

The series

This series presents the recovery strategies prepared or adopted by the federal government under SARA. New documents will be added regularly as species get listed and as strategies are updated.

To learn more

To learn more about the Species at Risk Act and recovery initiatives, please consult the SARA Public Registry and the Web site of the Recovery Secretariat  (

Recommended citation:

Fisheries and Oceans Canada. 2007. Recovery Strategy for the Northern Abalone (Haliotis kamtschatkana) in Canada.Species at Risk Act Recovery Strategy Series. Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Vancouver. vi + 31 pp.

Additional copies:

Additional copies can be downloaded from the SARA Public Registry (

Cover illustration: Pauline Ridings, Fisheries & Oceans Canada.

Également disponible en français sous le titre :

« Programme de rétablissement de l’haliotide pie (Haliotis kamtschatkana) au Canada »

© Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, represented by the Minister ofFisheries and Oceans, 2007. All rights reserved.

ISBN                       987-0-662-46915-5

Catalogue no.     En3-4/35-2007E-PDF


Content (excluding the illustrations) may be used without permission, with appropriate credit to the source.


The recovery strategy for the northern abalone has been prepared in cooperation with the jurisdictions described in the Preface. Fisheries and Oceans Canada has reviewed and accepts this document as its recovery strategy for the northern abalone as required under the Species at Risk Act (SARA). This recovery strategy also constitutes advice to other jurisdictions and organizations on the recovery goals, approaches and objectives that are recommended to protect and recover the species.

Success in the recovery of this species depends on the commitment and cooperation of many different constituencies that will be involved in implementing the directions set out in this strategy and will not be achieved by Fisheries and Oceans Canada or any other jurisdiction alone. In the spirit of the National Accord for the Protection of Species at Risk, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans invites all Canadians to join Fisheries and Oceans Canada in supporting and implementing this strategy for the benefit of the species and Canadian society as a whole. Fisheries and Oceans Canada will support implementation of this strategy to the extent possible, given available resources and its overall responsibility for species at risk conservation. Implementation of the strategy by other participating jurisdictions and organizations is subject to their respective policies, appropriations, priorities, and budgetary constraints.

The goals, objectives and recovery approaches identified in the strategy are based on the best existing knowledge and are subject to modifications resulting from new information. The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans will report on progress within five years.

This strategy will be complemented by one or more action plans that will provide details on specific recovery measures to be taken to support conservation of the species. The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans will take steps to ensure that, to the extent possible, Canadians interested in or affected by these measures will be consulted.

Responsible Jurisdictions

  • Fisheries & Oceans Canada
  • Parks Canada Agency
  • Government of British Columbia


The Abalone Recovery Team (Appendix 1) prepared this recovery strategy for Fisheries and Oceans Canada.


The development of the recovery strategy for northern abalone was the result of valuable contributions by a number of individuals and organizations.  The Abalone Recovery Team is grateful to the following reviewers for their valuable advice and contributions on the 2002 recovery strategy: Paul Breen, National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, New Zealand; Konstantin Karpov, California Fish and Game; Michele Patterson, World Wildlife Fund; Scoresby A. Shepherd, South Australian Research and Development Institute; Norm Sloan, Parks Canada; Anne Stewart, Bamfield Huu-ay-aht Community Abalone Project Society; and Jane Watson, Malaspina University-College.

The recovery team also acknowledges the many people who provided advice and comments through consultation workshops, and the following individuals for their written submissions in 2002: Lorne Clayton, IEC International Collaborative Marine Research and Development Ltd.; Erica Boulter, World Wildlife Fund; Robert DeVault, Outer Coast Oysters; Larry Golden; Michele James, Underwater Harvesters Association; Stefan Ochman, Fisheries Manager, Huu-ay-aht First Nation;  Dawn Renfrew, Bamfield Marine Sciences Center; Fred Hawkshaw; Mike Featherstone, Pacific Urchin Harvesters Association; Mark Biagi, Community Futures Development Corporation of Powell River and John Shepherd, Northwest Community College.

Fisheries & Oceans Canada would like to thank the numerous individuals and their organizations that are working to achieve the long-term recovery of northern abalone.

Strategic Environmental Assessment Statement

In accordance with the Cabinet Directive on the Environmental Assessment of Policy, Plan and Program Proposals, the purpose of a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) is to incorporate environmental considerations into the development of public policies, plans, and program proposals to support environmentally-sound decision making.

Recovery planning is intended to benefit species at risk and biodiversity in general. However, it is recognized that strategies may also inadvertently lead to environmental effects beyond the intended benefits. The planning process based on national guidelines directly incorporates consideration of all environmental effects, with a particular focus on possible impacts on non-target species or habitats.

This recovery strategy will clearly benefit the environment by promoting the recovery of the northern abalone. The potential for the strategy to inadvertently lead to adverse effects on other species was considered. The SEA concluded that this strategy will clearly benefit the environment and will not entail any significant adverse effects. Refer to the following sections of the document in particular:Needs of the Northern Abalone, Approaches Recommended to Meet Recovery Objectives, and Effects on other species. 


SARA defines residence as: “a dwelling-place, such as a den, nest or other similar area or place, that is occupied or habitually occupied by one or more individuals during all or part of their life cycles, including breeding, rearing, staging, wintering, feeding or

hibernating” [SARA S2(1)].

Residence descriptions, or the rationale for why the residence concept does not apply to a given species, are posted on the SARA public registry.


Northern abalone is a marine species under federal jurisdiction of the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans under the Fisheries Act and the Species at Risk Act (SARA).  SARA (Section 37) requires the competent minister to prepare recovery strategies for listed extirpated, endangered or threatened species.  The northern abalone was listed as threatened under SARA in June 2003. 

The Province of British Columbia has jurisdiction over the use of seabed and foreshore under the BC Land Act.  Aquaculture facilities are subject to licensing under the BC Fisheries Act.   Artificial movements of northern abalone into and within coastal waters and to aquaculture facilities are subject to review and licencing by the federal-provincial Introductions and Transfers Committee.  Under the Canada National Marine Conservation Areas Act, Parks Canada Agency has involvement in abalone management and protection in National Marine Conservation Areas (NMCAs).  The Province of BC and Parks Canada Agency have cooperated in the development of this recovery strategy. 

Fisheries & Oceans Canada formed the Abalone Recovery Team in 2001 to develop the ‘National Recovery Strategy for the Northern Abalone in British Columbia’, which was adopted under the Accord for the Protection of Species at Risk in 2002.  In 2007, the recovery strategy was updated to meet the requirements of SARA (this document). 

This proposed recovery strategy meets SARA requirements (Sections 39-41) in terms of content and process and covers the period 2007-2012. 

Executive Summary

The northern or pinto abalone has been declining in numbers and distribution in surveyed areas of coastal British Columbia (B.C.), Canada, as documented by regular surveys since the late 1970s.  The northern abalone fisheries in B.C. were closed to all harvest in 1990 to protect the remaining population.  Despite the complete ban on harvest, the population continued to decline and showed no sign of recovery.  As a result, northern abalone were assigned a threatened status by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) in April 1999.  In June 2003, northern abalone were legally listed and protected as threatened under the Species at Risk Act (SARA). 

Illegal harvest is considered to be the most significant threat to northern abalone.  The northern abalone is especially vulnerable to harvest because this species has a patchy distribution, short larval period, is slow growing, relatively long-lived, has low or sporadic recruitment, and mature individuals, which tend to accumulate in shallow water, are easily accessible to harvesters.  Low recruitment in an area, over a protracted period of several years, further threatens the northern abalone population by not replenishing the reproductive adults that have died from natural causes or illegal harvest. While low recruitment caused by unfavourable environmental and biotic factors usually can not be predicted nor controlled, ensuring that there are sufficient adult northern abalone to reproduce each year will allow recruitment to occur when environmental conditions are favourable.  Future threats may include habitat loss in localized areas to works or developments on, in and under the water in the event they are unregulated and predation by sea otters in areas where northern abalone are already severely depleted. 

The immediate recovery goal is to halt the decline of the existing wild northern abalone population in order to reduce the risk of northern abalone becoming endangered. 

The long-term recovery goal is to increase the number and densities of wild northern abalone to levels where the population becomes self-sustainable within five biogeographic zones, Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands), Queen Charlotte and Johnstone Straits, North and Central Coast, Georgia Basin, and West Coast of Vancouver Island, in order to remove northern abalone from threatened status.  The goal of increasing northern abalone to sustainable levels can be expected to take several decades.

The recovery objectives on which northern abalone’s recovery will be monitored over the next five years are:

  1. To observe that mean densities of large adult (> 100 mm shell length (SL)) northern abalone do not decline below 0.1 per m2 at surveyed index sites in Haida Gwaii and North and Central Coast, and that the percentage of surveyed index sites with large adult (> 100 mm SL) northern abalone does not decrease below 40%.
  2. To observe that the mean total density estimates at newly established index sites in the Queen Charlotte and Johnstone Straits do not decline below the level observed in 2004 (0.06 northern abalone per m2 and 0.02 northern abalone per m2, respectively), and the mean total density estimates for the West Coast of Vancouver Island do not decline below the level observed in 2003 (0.09 northern abalone per m2). 
  3. To observe at the index sites (in areas without sea otters) that the annual estimated mortality rate for mature (≥ 70 mm SL) northern abalone is reduced to <0.20 and the mean densities of mature (≥ 70 mm SL) northern abalone are increased to ≥ 0.32 per m2.
  4. To observe at the index sites (in areas without sea otters) that the proportion of quadrats (m2) with northern abalone is increased to > 40%.

The approaches recommended for the long-term to meet the recovery objectives are:

  1. maintaining the fisheries closures;
  2. implementing a proactive protection plan;
  3. implementing a communication campaign to stop illegal harvest and raise public awareness;
  4. undertaking research and rebuilding experiments;
  5. monitoring the population status. 

Critical habitat for northern abalone has not been identified.  Critical habitat may exist in certain habitats where juvenile survival is better, or where the reproducing adults contribute to a larger portion of the total recruitment.  Identification of these key habitats is an important component to the abalone research and rebuilding plans. 

One or more action plans, which provide the specific details for recovery implementation, will be completed within three years of completion of the recovery strategy.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada has facilitated the completion of this recovery strategy with the assistance of the Abalone Recovery Team.  Through workshops, public consultations andexternal reviews, other government agencies, stewardship groups, First Nations communities, universities, external experts, businesses, private citizens, international organizations and non-government organizations (NGOs) have also contributed to the recovery strategy.  Many of these groups are actively working to help stop the decline and remove this species from the threatened status list.

To report suspicious or illegal harvesting activities call 1-800-465-4336 and help protect northern abalone.

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