The Pinto abalone, a small snail found in the Pacific Ocean and known for its taste, is being considered for the endangered species list.
The National Marine Fisheries Service announced last week that it will review the status of the 6-inch mollusks, which live from Alaska to California, in response to summer petitions from The Natural Resources Defense Council and the Center for Biological Diversity.
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The overfished mollusks were listed as endangered in Canada in 2009, and have declined 80 to 99 percent in much of their range, center biologist Kiersten Lippmann told The Associated Press
. Extreme low tides where they live have made them easy prey.
"That made them an easy target for traditional hunters, back in the day," Lippmann told the AP.
The Alaska Department of Fish and Wildlife said natives of the state use the snail meat as a supplemental food and trade item. The petition claims that populations have nearly vanished
in Northern California and are shrinking in Southern California. Washington and Alaska closed their waters to commercial fishing in 1994 and 1996, respectively.
Such fishing restrictions haven't reversed the decline, because a majority of snails are too spread out to mate, Lippmann told the AP. Other threats include natrual predators and illegal harvesters, according to Lippmann.
The National Marine Fisheries Service is a division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and is tasked with the "management, conservation and protection of living marine resources within the United States' Exclusive Economic Zone (water three to 200 mile offshore)," according to the organization's web site. Earlier this week, NOAA announced regulations to help marine mammals during Navy training
and testing in Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico.
Last month, the organization removed the eastern Steller sea lion from the Endangered Species Act list after determining that its numbers have recovered.
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