Action Plan for the Northern Abalone (Haliotis kamtschatkana) in Canada

Northern Abalone

Table of Contents

List of Tables and Figures

  • Figure 1. Global distribution of Northern Abalone (map courtesy of COSEWIC 2009).  Bolded areas relate to possible distribution
  • Figure 2. Range of Northern Abalone in Canada (map courtesy of COSEWIC 2009).  Bolded areas indicate possible distribution.
  • Figure 3. Four distinct geospatial areas of critical habitat for Northern Abalone in    Pacific Canadian waters.
  • Table 1. Some First Nations and French names for Northern Abalone in British Columbia
  • Table 2. Functions, Features and Attributes of Northern Abalone Critical Habitat
  • Table 3. Examples of Activities Likely to Result in Destruction of Critical Habitat
  • Table 4. Proposed Implementation Schedule
  • Table 5. Potential effects of abalone recovery actions on other species

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Northern Abalone

Recommended citation:
Fisheries and Oceans Canada. 2012. Action Plan for the Northern Abalone (Haliotis kamtschatkana) in Canada Species at Risk Act Action Plan Series. Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Ottawa. vii + 65 pp.

For copies of the action plan, or for additional information on species at risk, including COSEWIC Status Reports, residence descriptions, action plans, and other related recovery documents, please visit the Species at Risk Public Registry.

Cover photo: Pauline Ridings, Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Également disponible en français sous le titre « Plan d’action pour l’haliotide pie (Haliotis kamtschatkana) au Canada »

© Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, represented by the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, 2012. All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-100-19459-2
Catalogue no: CW69-21/4-2011E-PDF

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

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Northern Abalone is a marine species at risk. The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans is a “competent minister” for aquatic species under the Species at Risk Act (SARA). Since Northern Abalone are known to occur in the Gwaii Haanas National Marine Conservation Area and the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, the Minister responsible for Parks Canada Agency is also a “competent minister” for this species.   SARA (Section 47) requires the competent minister to prepare action plans for listed extirpated, endangered or threatened species.  The Northern Abalone was listed as threatened under SARA in June 2003.

First Nations along the B.C. coast are playing a lead role in abalone stewardship and recovery within their claimed traditional territories, in collaboration with federal agencies and community partners (see Section 2.6). Although Northern Abalone are not specifically identified within the Nisga’a Treaty, the Nisga’a Fisheries Program is interested in abalone recovery and they participate in the recovery program1.

Under the Canada National Marine Conservation Areas Act, and the Canada National Parks Act, Parks Canada Agency is involved in abalone management and protection in National Marine Conservation Areas (NMCAs), NMCA Reserves, and national parks with marine components (e.g. Pacific Rim and Gulf Islands National Park Reserves).  Kelp harvesting is subject to licensing under the B.C. Fisheries Act2.

Artificial movements of Northern Abalone into and within coastal waters and to aquaculture facilities are subject to review and licensing by the federal-provincial Introductions and Transfers Committee and SARA

Success in the recovery of Northern Abalone depends on the commitment and cooperation of many different constituencies that will be involved in implementing the directions set out in this plan and will not be achieved by Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Parks Canada Agency or any other party alone.  This action plan provides advice to jurisdictions and organizations that are involved in, or wish to become involved in, activities to conserve this species.  In the spirit of the Accord for the Protection of Species at Risk, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and the Minister responsible for Parks Canada Agency invite all Canadians to join Fisheries and Oceans Canada and Parks Canada Agency in supporting and implementing this plan for the benefit of Northern Abalone and Canadian society as a whole.  Fisheries and Oceans Canada and Parks Canada Agency will support the implementation of this action plan based on available resources and varying species at risk conservation priorities.  

SARA Responsible Jurisdictions3

Fisheries and Oceans Canada
Parks Canada Agency


The 2009-10 Abalone Recovery Team (Appendix 1) led development of this action plan for Fisheries and Oceans Canada.  On behalf of the Haida Fisheries Program, Janet Winbourne, Lynn Lee, and Russ Jones provided the Haida traditional knowledge information included in this action plan (see Section 1.4 for source(s)).


The development of this action plan was the result of collaborative efforts and contributions from many individuals and organizations.  The Recovery Team would like to thank the Haida Fisheries Program for their continued involvement and engagement in ensuring accurate and respectful inclusion of the Haida traditional knowledge information in this 2010 action plan.  Fisheries and Oceans Canada also very much appreciates the past and present members of the Abalone Recovery Implementation Group (Ab RIG), and others who provided advice and comments through the November 2009 Abalone Recovery Implementation Group meeting and the 2004 draft National Recovery Action Plan for Northern Abalone.

Many First Nations throughout the coast of B.C. have and continue to participate in recovery efforts for Northern Abalone together with federal agencies (e.g., on the Abalone Recovery Implementation Group) and community partners (e.g., Coast Watch Programs).  First Nations are playing a key role in fostering a stewardship ethic for abalone recovery and developing and implementing local recovery programs.

This action plan represents part of a pilot initiative to work with First Nations to incorporate traditional knowledge in SARA recovery planning.  Haida Gwaii, North Coast and Central Coast First Nations have been conducting marine traditional knowledge (TK) studies in communities since 2007 as part of the Pacific North Coast Integrated Management Area (PNCIMA) integrated marine use planning initiative.  These and other efforts to research and document marine TK are ongoing.   To demonstrate the type of knowledge held in many First Nations communities and its potential contribution to marine planning and species recovery initiatives, the Haida Fisheries Program has provided input on how TK may be incorporated within recovery plan documents (specifically within the existing action planning framework).  The preliminary abalone TK in Sections 1.4 and 1.5 was provided by the Haida Fisheries Program and reflects a Haida perspective; as such the information may not reflect the federal government’s perspective, or those of other First Nations.  The Haida TK presented here is neither a comprehensive representation of Haida knowledge of abalone, nor of abalone TK held by other First Nations along the B.C. coast.  Traditional knowledge in Section 1.4 is included to characterize how TK information could be incorporated into SARA recovery planning and related documents.  This represents a first step by Fisheries and Oceans Canada and First Nations to explore respectful and appropriate incorporation of traditional knowledge into species recovery planning.  As new information is gathered from TK and other sources, activities in the action plan may be added, adapted and/ or revised.

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Strategic Environmental Assessment Statement

A strategic environmental assessment (SEA) is conducted on all SARA recovery planning documents, in accordance with the Cabinet Directive on the Environmental Assessment of Policy, Plan and Program Proposals.  The purpose of a SEA is to incorporate environmental considerations into the development of public policies, plans, and program proposals to support environmentally sound decision-making.

Action planning is intended to benefit species at risk and biodiversity in general.  However, it is recognized that plans 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 upon non-target species or habitats.  The results of the SEA are incorporated directly into the plan itself.

This action plan will clearly benefit the environment by promoting the recovery of Northern Abalone.  The potential for the plan to inadvertently lead to adverse effects on other species was considered.  Refer to the following sections of the document in particular: Section 3.

Executive Summary

This action plan for Northern Abalone (Haliotis kamtschatkana) in Canada forms the integral component to implementing the Recovery Strategy for Northern Abalone (Haliotis kamtschatkana) in Canada (DFO 2007).  Please refer to the recovery strategy for more complete information about Northern Abalone and its recovery in Canada, available on the SARA Public Registry or by contacting the Abalone Recovery Team Chairpersons listed in Appendix 1.

The Northern Abalone is a patchily distributed marine mollusc that has been declining in numbers and distribution in surveyed areas of British Columbia (B.C.), Canada4, as documented by regular surveys since the late 1970s.  In response to observations of population declines, the Northern Abalone fisheries were closed to all harvest in 1990 and a rebuilding program was initiated in 1999.  In April 1999, Northern Abalone was assigned threatened status by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC).  This status was recently changed to endangered following an updated status report and reassessment by COSEWIC in April 2009.  The species is legally listed as endangered under Canada’s Species at Risk Act.

The illegal harvesting of Northern Abalone and low recruitment levels have had predominant and widespread impacts and are the most significant threats to Northern Abalone recovery.  Predation by Sea Otters is also likely to affect recovery of abalone in areas where abalone is already severely depleted (COSEWIC 2009).

Critical habitat is identified in this action plan to the extent possible using the best available information.  Four areas with critical habitat for Northern Abalone are identified (Figure 3).  Northern Abalone are mostly found along exposed coastline not suitable for the majority of coastal developments.  As such, there are relatively few activities likely to destroy their critical habitat.  Finfish aquaculture, log booms and log dumps, and dredging, or the construction of underwater pipes or cable placement, installation of pilings or other developments that may have similar impacts as dredging, may require mitigation measures if they are proposed in areas that contain Northern Abalone (Lessard et al. 2007).  Lessard et al. (2007) rated the relative impact from these works or developments as low, provided an assessment protocol is followed.  An assessment protocol has been in place since 20075.

The general approaches to reach the population and distribution objectives of the recovery strategy are to: 1) maintain the fisheries closures; 2) promote compliance and enforcement of fisheries closures; 3) continue education and awareness; 4) support research and rebuilding experiments; and 5) monitor the status of the population.  Recovery activities are listed in Table 4, along with participating agencies and organizations.  Many of these actions were outlined in the the 1999 Workshop for Rebuilding Northern Abalone in B.C, the 2004 draft National Recovery Action Plan for Northern Abalone and the 2007 recovery strategy, and have been ongoing and improving over several years.  To date, these measures continue to be the most comprehensive and extensive means known to recover abalone.  Activities may be added, adapted and revised as new information is gathered. 

Socio-economic evaluation of this action plan (Section 4) has determined that implementation of this action plan will yield short-term benefits in the form of capacity-building and employment, and longer-term cultural and non-market benefits to First Nations and Canadian society as the abalone population recovers.  Many actions to recover Northern Abalone pre-date this action plan and, in some cases, SARA.  Since the species was listed in 2003, the majority of the costs of recovery activities related to enforcement, research and population monitoring have been borne by Fisheries and Oceans Canada.  Outreach and public education programs and other in-kind costs towards recovery activities have been, and are expected to continue to be, incurred by Environmental Non-Government Organizations (ENGOs) and First Nations participating in the recovery program.

For more information on abalone biology and past recovery initiatives, visit the Fisheries and Oceans Canada Abalone Homepage.

To report suspicious activities or abalone poaching call 1-800-465-4336.

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1 The Nisga’a Joint Fisheries Management Committee operates within the marine waters of Portland Canal and Observatory Inlet where Northern Abalone may live.

2 Licensing of aquaculture operations was assumed from the Province of B.C. by the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans in 2010 based on a decision by the B.C. Supreme Court in 2009.

3 First Nations consider that they have jurisdiction over the traditional territories that they claim.  See ‘Associated Plans’ section for reference to community-based recovery plans for abalone.

4 In Canada, Northern Abalone occurs only in British Columbia.

5 Appendix 4. Lessard, J. and A. Campbell. 2007. Impact assessment protocol for works and developments potentially affecting abalone and their habitat . In Lessard et al. 2007.

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