The National Marine Fisheries Service has declined to list the pinto abalone as an endangered or threatened species.
The federal agency announced this week that its status review found the 6-inch Pacific Ocean marine snail is not in danger of extinction and does not warrant federal protection under the Endangered Species Act at this time.
Pinto abalone, valued for their delicate flavor and mother-of-pearl shell, are found from Alaska to Baja California, the Associated Press reported.
Two conservation groups petitioned the agency in July 2013 to conduct a status review for pinto abalone, in hopes of earning protection.
Their argument for these mollusks needing federal protection is because their populations have dropped from 80 percent to 99 percent in much of their range, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council and Center for Biological Diversity.
They face threats from historical overfishing, poaching, climate change, ocean acidification, among other factors, the groups said.
“It’s disappointing,” Brad Sewell, a senior attorney for Natural Resources Defense Council, said Friday. He added that he is still reviewing the report but believed the pinto abalone should be qualified for listing at least as a threatened species.
“These are species that science shows ocean acidification and climate change are going to do it in,” he said. “The only way of saving the species is to address the health of the species early on and get it back to robust diverse populations.”
A team of experts convened by the agency reviewed factors affecting pinto abalone. Based on the best available scientific and commercial information, the federal agency deduced that the marine snail “is not presently in danger of extinction, nor is it likely to become so in the foreseeable future, throughout all or a significant portion of its range.”
The species will, however, remain on the agency’s “species of concern” list, according to the division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The finding is expected to be formally published Monday in the Federal Register.