Open Access Articles- Top Results for Abalone


This article is about the human use of the molluscs in the genus Haliotis. See that page for scientific information about this genus, and links to information about individual species. For other uses, see Abalone (disambiguation).
"Abelone" redirects here. For the wine grape that is also known as Abelone, see Chasselas.

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Temporal range: Late Cretaceous – Recent[1]
Scientific classification
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Linnaeus, 1758

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  • Euhaliotis Wenz, 1938
  • Eurotis Habe & Kosuge, 1964
  • Exohaliotis Cotton & Godfrey, 1933
  • Haliotis (Haliotis) Linnaeus, 1758
  • Haliotis (Nordotis) Habe & Kosuge, 1964
  • Haliotis (Notohaliotis) Cotton & Godfrey, 1933
  • Haliotis (Padollus) Montfort, 1810
  • Haliotis (Paua) C. Fleming, 1953
  • Haliotis (Sulculus) H. Adams & A. Adams, 1854
  • Marinauris Iredale, 1927
  • Neohaliotis Cotton & Godfrey, 1933
  • Nordotis Habe & Kosuge, 1964
  • Notohaliotis Cotton & Godfrey, 1933
  • Ovinotis Cotton, 1943
  • Padollus Montfort, 1810
  • Paua C. Fleming, 1953
  • Sanhaliotis Iredale, 1929
  • Schismotis Gray, 1856
  • Teinotis H. Adams & A. Adams, 1854
  • Tinotis P. Fischer, 1885 (invalid: unjustified emendation of Teinotis)
  • Usahaliotis Habe & Kosuge, 1964

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Abalone (Listeni/ˈæbəln/ or /ˌæbəˈln/; via Spanish abulón, from the Rumsen language aulón) is a common name for any of a group of small to very large edible sea snails, marine gastropod molluscs in the family Haliotidae.[4]

Other common names are ear shells, sea ears, and muttonfish or muttonshells in Australia, ormer in Great Britain, and pāua in New Zealand.[5]

The family Haliotidae contains only one genus, Haliotis, which used to contain 6 subgenera. These subgenera have become alternate representations of Haliotis.[4] The number of species recognized worldwide ranges between 30[6] and 130[7] with over 230 species-level taxa described. The most comprehensive treatment of the family considers 56 species valid, with 18 additional subspecies.[8]

The shells of abalones have a low open spiral structure, and are characterized by several open respiratory pores in a row near the shell's outer edge. The thick inner layer of the shell is composed of nacre (mother-of-pearl), which in many species is highly iridescent, giving rise to a range of strong changeable colors, which make the shells attractive to humans as decorative objects, jewelry, and as a source of colorful mother-of-pearl.

The flesh of abalones is widely considered to be a desirable food, and is consumed raw or cooked in a variety of cultures.


The iridescent surface inside a red abalone shell from Northern California (the adjacent coin is 18mm in diameter).

The shell of abalones is convex, rounded to oval shape, and may be highly arched or very flattened. The shell of the majority of species is ear-shaped, presenting a small flat spire and two to three whorls. The last whorl, known as the body whorl, is auriform, meaning that the shell resembles an ear, giving rise to the common name "ear shell". Haliotis asinina has a somewhat different shape, as it is more elongated and distended. The shell of Haliotis cracherodii cracherodii is also unusual as it has an ovate form, is imperforate, shows an exserted spire, and has prickly ribs.

A mantle cleft in the shell impresses a groove in the shell, in which are the row of holes characteristic of the genus. These holes are respiratory apertures for venting water from the gills and for releasing sperm and eggs into the water column. They make up what is known as the selenizone which form as the shell grows. This series of 8 to 38 holes is near the anterior margin. Only a small number are generally open. The older holes are gradually sealed up as the shell grows and new holes form. Each species has a typical number of open holes, between four and ten, in the selenizone. Abalone have no operculum. The aperture of the shell is very wide and nacreous.

The exterior of the shell is striated and dull. The color of the shell is very variable from species to species which may reflect the animal's diet.[5] The iridescent nacre that lines the inside of the shell varies in color from silvery white, to pink, red and green-red to deep blue, green to purple.

The animal shows fimbriated head-lobes. The side-lobes are also fimbriated and cirrated. The rounded foot is very large. The radula has small median teeth, and the lateral teeth are single and beam-like. There are about 70 uncini, with denticulated hooks, the first four very large. The soft body is coiled around the columellar muscle, and its insertion, instead of being on the columella, is on the middle of the inner wall of the shell. The gills are symmetrical and both well developed.[9]

These snails cling solidly with their broad muscular foot to rocky surfaces at sublittoral depths, although some species such as Haliotis cracherodii used to be common in the intertidal zone. Abalones reach maturity at a relatively small size. Their fecundity is high and increases with their size (from 10,000 to 11 million eggs at a time). The spermatozoa are filiform and pointed at one end, and the anterior end is a rounded head.[10]

The larvae are lecithotrophic. The adults are herbivorous and feed with their rhipidoglossan radula on macroalgae, preferring red or brown algae. Sizes vary from Script error: No such module "convert". (Haliotis pulcherrima) to Script error: No such module "convert". while Haliotis rufescens is the largest of the genus at Script error: No such module "convert"..[11]

Abalones are herbivorous on hard substrata.[clarification needed]

By weight, approximately 1/3 of the animal is edible meat, 1/3 is offal, and 1/3 is shell.[citation needed]


File:Abalone Santo Andre Povoa de Varzim.jpg
Abalone with a live sponge on its shell in Póvoa de Varzim, Portugal.

The haliotid family has a worldwide distribution, along the coastal waters of every continent, except the Pacific coast of South America, the East Coast of the United States, the Arctic, and Antarctica[12] The majority of abalone species are found in cold waters, such as off the coasts of New Zealand, South Africa, Australia, Western North America, and Japan.[citation needed]

Structure and properties of the shell

The shell of the abalone is exceptionally strong and is made of microscopic calcium carbonate tiles stacked like bricks. Between the layers of tiles is a clingy protein substance. When the abalone shell is struck, the tiles slide instead of shattering and the protein stretches to absorb the energy of the blow. Material scientists around the world are studying this tiled structure for insight into stronger ceramic products such as body armor.[13] The dust created by grinding and cutting abalone shell is dangerous; appropriate safeguards must be taken to protect people from inhaling these particles.

Diseases and pests

Abalones are subject to various diseases. The Victorian Department of Primary Industries said in 2007 that ganglioneuritis, or AVG, killed up to 90% of stock in affected regions. Abalone are also severe hemophiliacs as their fluids will not clot in the case of a laceration or puncture wound. Members of the Spionidae family of the polychaetes are known as pests of abalone.[14]

Human use

The meat (foot muscle) of abalone is used for food, and the shells of abalone are used as decorative items and as a source of mother of pearl for jewelry, buttons, buckles, and inlay.[15] Abalone shells have been found in archaeological sites around the world, ranging from 75,000 year old deposits at Blombos Cave in South Africa to historic Chinese abalone middens on California's Northern Channel Islands.[citation needed] On the Channel Islands, where abalones were harvested by Native Americans for at least 12,000 years, the size of red abalone shells found in middens declines significantly after about 4000 years ago, probably due to human predation.[citation needed] Worldwide, abalone pearls have also been collected for centuries.[citation needed]


See also: Aquaculture and Mariculture
Abalone hatchery
Part of the Multi-Species Fish and Invertebrate Breeding and Hatchery,[1](Oceanographic Marine Laboratory, Lucap, Alaminos, Pangasinan, Philippines, 2011).

Farming of abalone began in the late 1950s and early 1960s in Japan and China.[16] Since the mid-1990s, there have been many increasingly successful endeavors to commercially farm abalone for the purpose of consumption.[17] Over-fishing and poaching have reduced wild populations to such an extent that farmed abalone now supplies most of the abalone meat consumed. The principal abalone farming regions are China, Taiwan,[18] Japan, and Korea. Abalone is also farmed in Australia, Canada, Chile, France,[19] Iceland, Ireland, Mexico, Namibia, New Zealand, South Africa, Thailand, and the United States.[20]


See also: Bao yu

Abalone have long been a valuable food source for humans in every area of the world where a species is abundant. The meat of this mollusc is considered a delicacy in certain parts of Latin America (especially Chile), France, New Zealand, Southeast Asia, and East Asia (especially in China, Vietnam, Japan, and Korea). In Chinese speaking regions, abalone are commonly known as bao yu, and sometimes form part of a Chinese banquet[citation needed]. In the same way as shark fin soup or bird's nest soup, abalone is considered a luxury item, and is traditionally reserved for special occasions such as weddings and other celebrations[citation needed]. However, the availability of commercially farmed abalone has allowed more common consumption of this once rare delicacy[citation needed].

Abalone started to become popular after the Panama–Pacific International Exposition in 1915.[21]

As Abalone became more popular and less common, the prices have adjusted accordingly. In the 1920s a restaurant served portion of abalone, about 4 ounces, would cost (in inflation adjusted dollars) about $7, by 2004, the price had skyrocketed to $75.[21] In America, prior to this time, abalone was predominantly eaten, gathered, and prepared, by Chinese immigrants.[22] By 1900, laws were passed in California to outlaw the taking of abalone above the intertidal zone. This forced the Chinese out of the market and the Japanese perfected diving, with or without gear, to enter the market. By the time of the exposition, Americans were starting to discover abalone. The popularity of abalone, along with many other fish and shellfish, increased as the expo exhibited 365 varieties of fish with cooking demonstrations, and a 1300-seat dining hall.[23]

In Japan, live and raw abalone are used in awabi sushi, or served steamed, salted, boiled, chopped, or simmered in soy sauce. Salted, fermented abalone entrails are the main component of tottsuru, a local dish from Honshū. Tottsuru is mainly enjoyed with sake.[24]

In California, abalone meat can be found on pizza, sautéed with caramelized mango or in steak form dusted with cracker meal and flour.[25]

Sport harvesting


Tasmania supplies approximately 25% of the yearly world abalone harvest.[26] Around 12,500 Tasmanians recreationally fish for blacklip and greenlip abalone. For blacklip abalone, the size limit varies from between Script error: No such module "convert". for the southern end of the state and Script error: No such module "convert". for the northern end of the state.[27] Greenlip abalone have a minimum size of Script error: No such module "convert"., except for an area around Perkin's Bay in the north of the state where the minimum size is Script error: No such module "convert".. With a recreational abalone licence, there is a bag limit of 10 per day, and a total possession limit of 20. Scuba diving for abalone is allowed, and has a rich history in Australia. (Scuba diving for abalone in the states of New South Wales and Western Australia is illegal; a free-diving catch limit of two is allowed).[citation needed]

Victoria has had an active abalone fishery since the late 1950s. The state is sectioned into three fishing zones, Eastern, Central and Western with each fisher required a zone allocated licence. Harvesting is performed by divers using surface supplied air "hookah" systems operating from runabout style, outboard powered boats. While the diver seeks out colonies of abalone amongst the reef beds the deckhand operates the boat, known as working "live" and stays above where the diver is working. Bags of abalone pried from the rocks are brought to the surface by the diver or by way of "shot line", where the deckhand drops a weighted rope for the catch bag to be connected then retrieved. Divers measure each abalone before removing from the reef and the deckhand re-measures each abalone and removes excess weed growth from the shell. Since 2002 the Victorian Industry has seen a significant decline in catches, with the total allowable catch (TAC) reduced from 1440 tonnes to 787 tonnes for the 2011/12 fishing year. This is due to dwindling stocks and most notably the abalone virus Ganglioneuritis which is fast spreading and lethal to abalone stocks.

United States

File:Workers drying abalone shells in the sun in southern California (CHS-1399).jpg
Workers drying abalone shells in the sun in southern California, ca. 1900
File:White abalone Haliotis sorenseni.jpg
Two highly endangered White Abalone. Prohibitions on commercial and recreational harvest of this species have been in place since 1996.

Sport harvesting of red abalone is permitted with a California fishing license and an abalone stamp card. In 2008, the abalone card also came with a set of 24 tags. This was reduced to 18 abalone per year in 2014, only nine of which may be taken south of Mendocino County. Legal-size abalone must be tagged immediately.[28] Abalone may only be taken using breath-hold techniques or shorepicking; scuba diving for abalone is strictly prohibited.[29] Taking of abalone is not permitted south of the mouth of the San Francisco Bay.[30] There is a size minimum of Script error: No such module "convert". measured across the shell. A person may be in possession of only three abalone at any given time.[31][32]

Abalone may only be taken from April to November, not including July. Transportation of abalone may only legally occur while the abalone is still attached in the shell. Sale of sport-obtained abalone is illegal, including the shell. Only red abalone may be taken as black, white, pink, flat, green, and pinto abalone are protected by law.[31]

An abalone diver is normally equipped with a thick wetsuit, including a hood, bootees, and gloves, and usually also a mask, snorkel, weight belt, abalone iron, and abalone gauge. Alternatively, the rock picker can feel underneath rocks at low tides for abalone. Abalone are mostly taken in depths from a few inches up to Script error: No such module "convert".; less common are freedivers who can work deeper than Script error: No such module "convert".. Abalone are normally found on rocks near food sources such as kelp. An abalone iron is used to pry the abalone from the rock before it can fully clamp down. Divers dive out of boats, kayaks, tube floats or directly off the shore.[29]

The largest abalone recorded in California is Script error: No such module "convert"., caught by John Pepper somewhere off the coast of San Mateo county in September 1993.[33]

The mollusc Concholepas concholepas is often sold in the United States under the name "Chilean abalone", though it is not an abalone, but a muricid.

New Zealand

Main article: Paua

In New Zealand, abalone is called pāua (/ˈpə/, from the Māori language). Haliotis iris (or blackfoot pāua) is the ubiquitous New Zealand pāua; the highly polished nacre of which is extremely popular as souvenirs with its striking blue, green, and purple iridescence. Haliotis australis and Haliotis virginea are also found in New Zealand waters, but are less popular than H. iris.

Like all New Zealand shellfish, recreational harvesting of pāua does not require a permit provided catch limits, size restrictions, and seasonal and local restrictions set by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) are followed. The legal recreational daily limit is 10 pāua per diver, with a minimum shell length of Script error: No such module "convert". for Haliotis iris and Script error: No such module "convert". for Haliotis australis. In addition, no person may be in possession, even on land, of more than 20 pāua or more than Script error: No such module "convert". of pāua meat at any one time. Pāua can only be caught by free-diving; it is illegal to catch pāua using scuba gear.

There is an extensive global black market in collecting and exporting abalone meat. This can be a particularly awkward problem where the right to harvest pāua can be granted legally under Māori customary rights. When such permits to harvest are abused, it is frequently difficult to police. The limit is strictly enforced by roving Ministry for Primary Industries fishery officers with the backing of the New Zealand Police. Pāua poaching is a major industry in New Zealand with many thousands being taken illegally, often undersized. Convictions have resulted in seizure of diving gear, boats, and motor vehicles and fines and in rare cases, imprisonment. The Ministry of Fisheries expects in the year 2004/05, nearly 1,000 tons of pāua will be poached, with 75% of that being undersized.[34]

South Africa

The largest abalone in South Africa, Haliotis midae, occurs along approximately two-thirds of the country’s coastline. Abalone-diving has been a recreational activity for many years, but stocks are currently being threatened by illegal commercial harvesting. In South Africa all persons harvesting this shellfish need permits that are issued annually, and no abalone may be harvested using scuba gear.

For the last few years, however, no permits have been issued for collecting abalone, but commercial harvesting still continues as does illegal collection by syndicates.[35] In 2007, because of widespread poaching of abalone, the South African government listed abalone as an endangered species according to the CITES section III appendix, which requests member governments to monitor the trade in this species. This listing was removed from CITES in June 2010 by the South African government and South African abalone is no longer subject to CITES trade controls. Export permits are still required, however. The abalone meat from South Africa is prohibited for sale in the country to help reduce poaching; however, much of the illegally harvested meat is sold in Asian countries. As of early 2008, the wholesale price for abalone meat was approximately US$40.00 per kilogram. There is an active trade in the shells, which sell for more than US$1,400 per metric tonne.

Channel Islands

Ormers (Haliotis tuberculata) are considered a delicacy in the British Channel Islands as well as in adjacent areas of France, and are pursued with great alacrity by the locals. This has led to a dramatic depletion in numbers since the latter half of the 19th century, and "ormering" is now strictly regulated in order to preserve stocks. The gathering of ormers is now restricted to a number of 'ormering tides', from January 1 to April 30, which occur on the full or new moon and two days following. No ormers may be taken from the beach that are under Script error: No such module "convert". in shell length. Gatherers are not allowed to wear wetsuits or even put their heads underwater. Any breach of these laws is a criminal offense and can lead to fine of up to £5,000 or six months in prison.[36] The demand for ormers is such that they led to the world's first underwater arrest, when Mr. Kempthorne-Leigh of Guernsey was arrested by a police officer in full diving gear when illegally diving for ormers.[37]

Decorative items

The highly iridescent inner nacre layer of the shell of abalone has traditionally been used as a decorative item, in jewelry,[5] buttons, and as inlay in furniture and in musical instruments such as guitars, etc.[citation needed]

Abalone pearl jewelry is very popular in New Zealand and Australia, in no minor part due to the marketing and farming efforts of pearl companies. Unlike the Oriental Natural, the Akoya pearl, and the South Sea and Tahitian cultured pearls, abalone pearls are not primarily judged by their roundness. The inner shell of the abalone is an iridescent swirl of intense colours, ranging from deep cobalt blue and peacock green to purples, creams and pinks. Therefore each pearl, natural or cultured, will have its own unique collage of colours.

The shells of abalone are occasionally used in New Age smudging ceremonies to catch falling ash. They have also been used as incense burners.

Threat of extinction

Abalones have been identified as one of the many classes of organism threatened with extinction due to overfishing, acidification of oceans from anthropogenic carbon dioxide,[38] as reduced pH erodes their shells. It is predicted[by whom?] that abalones will become extinct in the wild within 200 years at current rates of carbon dioxide production.[citation needed]


Main article: Haliotis

The number of species that are recognized within the genus Haliotis has fluctuated over time, and depends on the source that is consulted. The number of recognized species range from 30[6] to 130.[7] This list finds a compromise using the "WoRMS database", plus some species that have been added, for a total of 57.[4][39] The majority of abalone have not been rated for conservation status. Those that have been reviewed tend to show that the abalone in general is an animal that is declining in numbers, and will need protection throughout the globe.


See also




  • Abbott, R. Tucker; Dance, S. Peter (2000). Compendium of Seashells (4th ed.). Odyssey Publishing. pp. 19–23. ISBN 978-0-9661720-0-3. 
  • Anon (2014). "Abalone Viral Ganglioneuritis". Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment. Tasmanian Government. Archived from the original on 16 August 2014. Retrieved 16 August 2014. 
  • Anon (2014a). "Abalone Fishing". Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment. Tasmanian Government. Archived from the original on 16 August 2014. Retrieved 16 August 2014. 
  • Anon (2014b). "Ormering Tides 2014". State of Guernsey Commerce and Employment. Archived from the original on 16 August 2014. Retrieved 16 August 2014. 
  • Beesley, P. L.; Ross, G. J. B.; Wells, A. (1998). Mollusca: The Southern Synthesis: An Essential Reference. Melbourne, Australia: CSIRO Publishing. pp. 667–669. ISBN 0-643-05756-0. 
  • Cox, Keith W. (1962). "California abalone, family Haliotidae". The Resources Agency of California Department of Fish and Game: Fish Bulletin 118. ISSN 6306-2593. 
  • Dauphin, Y.; Cuif, J. P.; Mutvei, H.; Denis, A. (1989). "Mineralogy, Chemistry and Ultrastructure of the External Shell-layer in Ten Species of Haliotis With Reference to Haliotis tuberculata (Mollusca, Archaeogastropoda)". Bulletin of the Geological Institutions of the University of Uppsala 15: 7–38. ISSN 0302-2749. 
  • Geiger, Daniel L.; Groves, Lindsey T. (September 1999). "Review of Fossil Abalone (Gastropoda, Vetigastropoda, Haliotidae) with Comparison to Recent Species". Journal of Paleontology (Lawrence, KS: Paleontological Society) 73 (5): 872–885. ISSN 0022-3360. 
  • Geiger, Daniel L.; Owen, Buzz (2012). Abalone: Worldwide Haliotidae. Hackenheim, Germany: Conchbooks. ISBN 978-3-9397-6743-5. 
  • Hoiberg, Dale H., ed. (1993). Encyclopædia Britannica. 1: A-ak Bayes (15th ed.). Chicago, IL: Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. ISBN 0-85229-961-3. LCCN 2002113989. 
  • Jones, Glenn A. (2008). ""Quite the Choicest Protein Dish": The Costs of Consuming Seafood in American Restaurants, 1850-2006". In Starkey, David J.; Holm, Poul; Barnard, Michaela. Oceans Past: Management Insights from the History of Marine Animal Populations. London, UK: Earthscan. ISBN 978-1-84407-527-0. 
  • Loosanoff, Victor L. (1997). "Abalone". In Johnston, Bernard. Collier's Encyclopedia. I: A to Ameland (1st ed.). New York, NY: P. F. Collier. 
  • McDougall, P. T.; Ploss, J.; Tuthill, J. (2006). "Haliotis kamtschatkana". IUCN RedList. Archived from the original on 22 August 2014. Retrieved 22 August 2014. 
  • Smith, G.; Stamm, C.; Petrovic, F. (2003). "Haliotis cracherodii". IUCN RedList. Archived from the original on 22 August 2014. Retrieved 22 August 2014. 
  • State of California (January 2011). "Special Animals (898 Taxa)" (PDF). State of California: Division of Fish and Game. Archived from the original on 22 August 2014. Retrieved 22 August 2014. 

External links

Additional Reading

  • Field, Les (2008). Lomawaima, K. Tsianina, ed. Abalone Tales: Collaborative Explorations of Sovereignty and Identity in Native California. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. ISBN 978-0-8223-4233-5. 
  • Geiger, Daniel L.; Poppe, G. T. (2000). A Conchological Iconography: The family Haliotidae. Hackenheim Germany: Conchbooks.