E-Fauna BC: Electronic Atlas of the Wildlife of British Columbia

Haliotis kamtschatkana (Jonas, 1845)
Northern Abalone; Pinto Abalone
Family: Haliotidae

Photo of species

© Aaron Baldwin  Email the photographer   (Photo ID #2218)

E-Fauna BC Static Map
Distribution of Haliotis kamtschatkana in British Columbia
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Species Information

The pinto abalone is the smallest abalone species (Racerocks 2010) and is the only abalone species found in Canada (COSEWIC 2009). It has a flattened, ear-shaped, scalloped-edged, rough (rugose)shell that has a dome at one end, and ranges in size from 4 to 6 inches (Racerocks 2010, COSEWIC 2009). The shell colour is linked to diet, but is generally a mottled reddish or greenish with areas of white and blue (sometimes orange) and is iridescent inside (COSEWIC 2009). It has 3 to 6 raised, oval-shaped, respiratory holes in a line on the surface paralleled by a groove. The epipodium (lateral lobe of the foot) is lacy-edged and mottled yellowish to brown in color; and thin yellowish brown to green tentacles surround the tan-coloured foot and extend out of the shell (COSEWIC 2009).



This is a herbivorous species that grazes on algae and other plant material on rock surfaces, using their tongues to scrape plant matter from the rocks. Juveniles feed on diatoms and micro-algae, while adults show preference for macro-algae(COSEWIC 2009). The colour banding on many abalone shells is caused by the changes in the type of algae that the abalone has eaten. (Racerocks 2010).


Northern abalone spawn synchronously (COSEWIC 2009). Abalone female releases millions of eggs, however 1% or less of the offspring survive. The eggs turn into planktonic larva that drift with the currents for a short period. They then settle on the bottom on encrusting algae and begin to develop the adult shell form (Racerocks 2010).


Predators include crabs, lobsters, octopuses, starfish, fish and snails, and sea otters.


This species probably lives for 15-20 years (COSEWIC 2009).


Pinto abalones can be found in intertidal and low subtidal areas on rocks and boulders in a variety of habitats along the open coast of British Columbia at depths of 10-18 m (COSEWIC 2009, Racerocks 2010). The are found in areas with kelp (Nereocystis, Macrocystis, Pterygophora), sea urchins, sea stars, and coralline algae (COSEWIC 2009).


Global Distribution

This species ranges from Sitka, Alaska to Point Conception in California.
Distribution in British Columbia

This species is found in patchy distribution along the open coast of British Columbia where suitable habitat is available (COSEWIC 2009, Davies et al. 2006). Northern abalone in BC have been recognized as a genetically uniform single population (COSEWIC 2009).


According to COSEWIC (2009), this species was prevously recognized by some researchers as two subspecies (Northern or Pinto Abalone, H. Kamtschatkana kamtschatkana, and Threaded Abalone, H. k. assimilis Dall 1878) or as two separate species (H. kamtschatkana and H. Assimilis), however currenty these are recognized as geographic extremes of a single species (Geiger and Poppe 2000).


Wikipedia 2009: “Population size has declined due to overharvest, illegal harvest, predators, and disease. Harvest has been illegal in Canada since 1990.”

Status Information

Origin StatusProvincial StatusBC List
(Red Blue List)
NativeS2RedE (Apr 2009)
BC Ministry of Environment: BC Species and Ecosystems Explorer--the authoritative source for conservation information in British Columbia.

Additional Range and Status Information Links

Additional Photo Sources

Species References

Davies, K, M.Atkins and J. Lessard. 2006. Survey of Northern Abalone, Haliotis kamtschatkana, Populations in Queen Charlotte and Johnstone Straits, British Columbia, May 2004. Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Pacific Biological Station, Nanaimo.

Racerocks. 2010. Haliotis kamtschatkana page. Available online.

Additional Useful References:

Harbo, Rick M. 2001. Shells & Shellfish of the Pacific Northwest. A Field Guide. Harbour Publishing, Madeira Park, BC.

General References

Recommended citation: Author, Date. Page title. In Klinkenberg, Brian. (Editor) 2021. E-Fauna BC: Electronic Atlas of the Fauna of British Columbia [efauna.bc.ca]. Lab for Advanced Spatial Analysis, Department of Geography, University of British Columbia, Vancouver. [Accessed: 2022-08-07 3:00:30 PM]
Disclaimer: The information contained in an E-Fauna BC atlas pages is derived from expert sources as cited (with permission) in each section. This information is scientifically based.  E-Fauna BC also acts as a portal to other sites via deep links.  As always, users should refer to the original sources for complete information.  E-Fauna BC is not responsible for the accuracy or completeness of the original information.

© E-Fauna BC 2021: An initiative of the Spatial Data Lab, Department of Geography, UBC