Dynamics and Distribution of Black Abalone Populations at San Nicolas Island, California

Dense populations of black abalones (Haliotis cracherodii Leach) were monitored in permanent intertidal plots at nine sites on San Nicolas Island from 1981 through 1990. Densities were essentially constant at all four sites along the north shore of the island throughout the study period. Densities at five sites along the south shore were more variable, possibly reflecting asynchronous variation in recruitment, mortality resulting from wave disturbance, and removal by people. Temporal variation of abalone densities apparently was not influenced by sea otters or abalone withering syndrome during this study. Abalones were strongly aggregated in space. Highest densities occurred in areas of irregular substrata, apparently as a result of preference for crevices and vertical faces. The locations of dense patches were persistent in time.