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Recovery strategy for the Northern Abalone

2.5 Performance Measures

The success of the recovery actions will be reviewed annually, while the goals, objectives and broad strategies outlined herein will be reviewed within five years of the recovery strategy’s acceptance by the Minister.  The following performance measures will be used to assess the effectiveness of the objectives and strategies, and to determine whether recovery remains feasible.

Objective-based performance measures:

  • Did the mean densities of large adult (> 100 mm SL) northern abalone decline below 0.1/m2 at surveyed index sites in Haida Gwaii and North and Central Coast?  Or did it increase?
  • Did the percentage of surveyed index sites with large adult (> 100 mm SL) northern abalone decrease (<40%)?  Or did it improve (>40%)?
  • Did the annual estimated mortality rate for mature (≥ 70 mm SL) abalone drop to < 0.20, and the mean densities of mature (≥ 70 mm SL) abalone increase to greater than 0.32/m2
  • Were more than 40% of the quadrats (m2) occupied by abalone?

Approach-based performance measures:

  • Was the coast-wide closure to northern abalone harvesting maintained and enforced? Was the coast-wide closure an effective measure contributing in halting the population decline? 
  • Was a proactive protective enforcement plan implemented?  How many reports relating to abalone harvesting were provided to enforcement officers and the toll free enforcement line (Observe-Record-Report)?  To what degree were these reports investigated and resulted in charges and convictions?  How many hours were spent on enforcing abalone closures?  What were the trends in enforcement hours and resulting charges and convictions over the period before and during implementation of the recovery strategy? 
  • Was a long-term communications strategy implemented?  How many and what kind of communication materials and/or actions were produced and/or undertaken?  How many people, and where, did the communications activities reach?  What indications for increased awareness (e.g., did visits to the abalone web site increase, what level of participation at workshops?) and/or reductions in illegal harvest were a result of communications efforts?
  • What significant new knowledge was gained through research that would directly contribute to the rebuilding of the northern abalone population?  How many population rebuilding initiatives were undertaken?  Was there an observed increase in juvenile abundance and/or recruitment as a result of rebuilding experiments?  Does rebuilding appear to be a viable, or promising strategy to recover the wild abalone population?  What reports (technical or primary publications) were prepared that provide results of surveys and biological studies?
  • Was baseline abundance data established in each of the biogeographic zones? 

2.6 Critical Habitat

2.6.1 Identification of the species’ critical habitat

SARA defines critical habitat as “the habitat that is necessary for the survival or recovery of a listed wildlife species and that is identified as the species’ critical habitat in the recovery strategy or in an action plan for the species”.  While the general habitat requirements for northern abalone can be described (Section 1.4.1), the identification of critical habitat as defined under SARA requires further research.

Critical habitat to northern abalone 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.

2.6.2 Schedule of studies to identify critical habitat

Further research is needed before critical habitat for northern abalone can be identified.  The following schedule for the next five years (2007-2012) outlines the studies that will yield information towards identifying critical habitat for northern abalone.  The activities outlined in this schedule are recommendations that are subject to priorities and budgetary constraints of the participating jurisdictions and organizations.  Some studies will take longer than five years to complete. 

Recovery ActivitiesDate
Survey juvenile abalone to improve the ‘cryptic model’ (estimate of the portion of the population that remains cryptic and unavailable to survey). 2007-2012
Compare field observations from known abalone habitat to a predicted abalone habitat suitability model (Jamieson et al. 2004).2007-2012
Determine the habitat characteristics that improve growth rates.   2007-2009
Examine growth, survival and distribution of early benthic stages in relation to local habitat, algal, predator and competitor species.  Determine the parameters that contribute to higher juvenile densities (recruitment).2007-2012
As part of the protocol (Lessard et al. 2006), monitor the extent to which works and developments on, in and under the water may impact on abalone habitat and recovery.2010-2012+
Refine the predicted abalone habitat suitability model based on field observations.2012+
Examine abalone distribution in relation to local seawater current patterns and computer simulations to determine potential larval dispersal mechanisms. 2012+

The identification of critical habitat is expected to take many years.  Juvenile northern abalone are cryptic, making them difficult to find and to study, and dive surveys are intensive.  Factors that contribute to localized recruitment (e.g., currents) are complex and may vary annually.  A time series of data will be required on which to base assumptions to determine the ‘critical’ components of the habitat, rather than the habitat that is merely suitable. 

2.7 Existing and Recommended Approaches to Habitat Protection

The Fisheries Act has provisions to protect northern abalone habitat.  A list of existing marine protected areas is summarized in Jamieson and Lessard (2000).  Marine Protected Areas may also be established under the Oceans Act.  Under the Canada National Marine Conservation Areas Act, Parks Canada is responsible for the creation of National Marine Conservation Areas (NMCAs) which will be managed for sustainable use, and protected from industrial activities such as marine dumping, mining, and oil and gas exploration and development.  A proposed NMCA in the southern Queen Charlotte Islands will extend 10 km offshore from Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve.  As such, it will encompass all the abalone habitat within this area.  Consultations on the proposed NMCA are on hold pending negotiations with the Council of the Haida Nation.   

Protocols (Lessard et al. 2006) are in place for authorizations under the Fisheries Act of works or developments on, in and under the water that may impact on abalone or its habitat.  The protocols include decision rules to protect important habitat and, as such, adopts a precautionary approach to also protect critical habitat although it has not yet been identified. 

Works or developments on, in and under the water that may affect abalone habitat may also be subject to review under the Navigable Waters Protection Act and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.

Movements of abalone to hatchery facilities and to the wild, including enhancement by out-planting to the wild, are subject to review and permitting (Fisheries Act) by the federal-provincial Introductions and Transfers Committee.  Considerations made by the Committee in permitting transfers include disease transmission, genetic implications, and proper management and control to protect the threatened wild population.  Currently, out-planting experiments are restricted to the immediate vicinity of Bamfield, B.C.. 

2.8 Permitting(SARA)

Refer to the ‘Recovery Potential Analysis for Northern Abalone’ (Lessard et al. 2006) for a review and recommendations on activities that may be permitted under SARA and the impact assessment protocol for proposed works and developments on, in or under the water.

A future amendment to this recovery strategy will be required in the event densities within an established and protected rebuilding area(s) recovers to minimum levels at which a limited First Nation harvest for food, social and ceremonial purposes, as protected under Section 35(1) of the Constitution Act, may be considered without jeopardizing survival or recovery of northern abalone.

2.9 Effects on Other Species

Table 3. Effects on other species
StrategyPotential ImpactProbability of Impact
1.       Fisheries closuresFisheries closures were anticipated to halt declines in the abalone population to allow for natural stock recovery and were not anticipated to affect other species.



2.       CommunicationCommunication may benefit other species associated with abalone communities and other species at risk by raising awareness and increasing reports of illegal harvesting.Medium
3.       Proactive Protection Plan Increased enforcement activities for abalone will benefit other species by increased vigilance for all illegal fishing, possessing, and marketing activities, and can be expected to increase community reporting of illegal activities. High
4.       Research and Rebuilding Experiments

Rebuilding experiments may impact other species on a localized scale. 

Research may provide a better understanding of species and ecological interactions.




5.       Population MonitoringTime series data may help to better understand species population changes of other species and ecosystem processes.Medium

2.10 Recommended Approach for Recovery Implementation

The northern abalone has been considered for the single species recovery approach because it is a distinct species with respect to the issues that threaten its survival.  Illegal harvest and low recruitment are the main reasons for a continued decline in the wild population, even though there have been complete fisheries closures for northern abalone since 1990.  The northern abalone is the only marine invertebrate listed as threatened or endangered in Pacific Canada.  Although being recommended for a single species approach, there are several actions outlined in the approach for recovery that may directly benefit other species within the geographical area that is included within northern abalone habitat.  Sea otters (threatened) also exist within this ecosystem within an expanding portion of northern abalone’s range, and do interact with northern abalone. Therefore, a shift to an ecosystem approach may be required in the future.  This will require an adaptive approach as knowledge of the species and related species interactions improve.

2.11 Statement on Action 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