Abalone are large marine snails which feed on algae and cling to rocks by a large muscular foot. The muscular foot provides the meat, which is eaten.
The two main species of abalone taken in South Australia are the greenlip abalone (Haliotis laevigata) and the blacklip abalone (Haliotis rubra).
Three other species of abalone are common in South Australia, however they seldom reach the minimum legal length of 13cm.
Abalone lives on the rocky bottom and each species has a distinctive habitat. Greenlip abalone occurs in two types of habitats. They live on low reef areas (often in a part sand/ part rock environment) at depths ranging from 5 to 40 metres. Such areas, with reef outcropping from the sand, are common off the central and west coasts of South Australia and provide the main commercial fishing grounds.
Greenlip abalone also occur in rough water at the base of steeply sloping granite cliffs, and usually along the sides of gutters or clefts from depths of 10 to 25 metres. In areas of calm water, greenlip abalone may occur in shallower water on rocky habitat near seagrass beds.
Blacklip abalone has a large variation of habitat over its geographic range. In Western Australia, western and central South Australia through to New South Wales blacklip abalone are found on reefs, usually hidden in caves, fissures and narrow crevices. The blacklip abalone depth range rarely exceeds 10 metres and is usually less than 5 metres.
According to its habitat each abalone species has its own predators. Young abalone during their crevice-living phase are preyed upon by whelks, crabs, octopus and wrase (also known as parrot fish). Adult abalone are eaten by fish, octopus, rock lobster, stingrays and starfish. Stingrays are the most important natural predator of greenlip abalone and account for some 70% to 80% of natural deaths.
Abalone are known as 'broadcast fertilisers'. That is, eggs and sperm are shed freely into the water where fertilisation takes place. In South Australia the green lip abalone spawns between October and February. Blacklip abalone spawn between February and April and again between October and December.
At age one, abalone's average length is about 25 millimetres, at five years about 130 millimetres and at six years about 145 millimetres. This is an average growth rate. In some locations growth is faster, in other locations growth may be slower. Both greenlip and blacklip abalone species are thought to live to about 15 years of age and can reach a maximum length of 150 to 220 mm.
The recreational fishery is regulated through size limits, bag limits and area closures (eg Waterloo Bay, aquatic reserves).
The modern South Australian abalone fishery commenced in 1967. In the early 1970s the number of licences were restricted and the fishery was divided into three geographical zones, being the Western, Central and Southern zones. In 1980 commercial licences became transferable. In 1985 quotas were introduced and extended to all zones by 1990.
The abalone fishery in South Australia has proven to be one of the more valuable commercial fisheries, worth approximately $35 million in 2001/02. About 96% of the catch is exported in cans, live, frozen, dried or boiled.
Australia is the largest abalone producing country in the world, with quotas applied in all abalone-producing states enabling annual production of 4 to 5 thousand tonnes. This is over one third of total world production. South Australia accounts for about 20-25% of the Australian catch.
Supplies of abalone have decreased steadily in many parts of the world with stocks collapsing under excessive fishing pressure or inappropriate management.
Illegal harvesting (poaching) is a major concern and offenders may be subject to heavy fines and jail sentences.
The taking of abalone is prohibited in aquatic reserves and from intertidal reefs.
The taking of abalone and all bottom dwelling marine organisms from intertidal reefs (from high water mark to a water depth of 2 metres) is prohibited along the entire coastline of South Australia.
Other seasonal and temporary closures are declared from time to time. Contact your local PIRSA Fisheries Office for further details.
The state is divided into three zones:
Abalone may be taken by recreational fishers provided certain requirements are met.
Recreational fishers are not permitted to sell or trade their catch.
Minimum legal length:
For greenlip abalone from the Western Zone the minimum legal length is 14.5 cm
For all other species in all other waters the minimum legal length is 13.0 cm
Abalone must be measured across the greatest dimension of the shell.
|Personal daily bag limit: ||A combined daily bag limit of five abalone (whether greenlip or blacklip) per person per day, for example, 3 greenlip and 2 blacklip per day|
|Daily boat limit:|| When two or more persons are fishing, a combined daily boat limit of 10 abalone (whether greenlip or blacklip) per boat per day, for example 6 greenlip and 4 blacklip or 2 greenlip and 8 blacklip. |
If only one person in the boat is taking abalone, the personal bag limit of five abalone per day applies.
|Closed areas:|| The taking of abalone is prohibited in all: |
Contact your local PIRSA Fisheries Office for details of seasonal and temporary restrictions.
|Handling abalone:|| The diver must: |