Abalone questions from a newbie


New Member
Jul 16, 2012
Hello All,

I am new to this forum, and was trying to see if I could find answers to some questions by looking at old posts. I have a few that I cannot find answers to:

1) I have read that abalone products are CITES animals, and therefore heavily regulated, as far as importing them/exporting them from/to the US. This confuses me, as I have been to restaurants that sell abalone meals.

2) I have been approached (to invest in) by a start up company who is trying to produce abalone pearls, meat and other products from the animals they are growing. If this is actually something that can be legally done (see question 1), is there really a market for these items (pearls)?

Thank you very much for your time!

There are some abalone operations along themid-California coast http://www.americanabalone.net/index.html where some species of abalone are plentiful. I know they are growing in Mexico too, but I have never looked up the regulations. Maybe some else knows about those.

We have a member who sells abalone pearls from New Zealand, Antz. Please visit his Ebay offerings.(this link might be current, but you can get to his other pearls thru this link if it's not. They sell for reasonable prices compared to any other abalone pearls I have seen. A lot of people think their abalone pearls are worth a fortune, but as antz has found out, that is not true, except for the most exquisitely colored, least flawed, and round or something kind of near round from some angles. And good horns. Many people way overvalue their abalone pearls before they try to sell them. Antz may provide the best current market value prices on abalone pearls at the moment. He is actually kind of creating the market with his steady supply of beautiful little pearls.
Here is another farm http://www.abalonefarm.com/ I googled it. You might be onto something...

And there is a west coast buyer who seems to get most of the pearls, so I think you could either sell them direct and get the most, or find a trusted middle man.
Thanks Caitlan, great info-although I still would like to know the answers to the questions from my original post.

Importing and exporting should be the least of your concerns.

There used to be an experimental farm near me in the 1980's. They were unable to find viability in the production of pearls. The farm continued to operate under a government subsidy as an outplanting facility.

Here in Canada, abalone is listed as a "species at risk", due to over-fishing, poaching and the return of the sea otter. http://www.sararegistry.gc.ca/species/speciesDetails_e.cfm?sid=603

By comparison, abalone pearling is world's apart from conventional pearling from oysters and mussels. Even before grafting, the base cost of each shell is upwards of 25x the cost of bivalves elsewhere. The surgical procedure itself, is also more expensive and mortalities are higher. Abalone are gastropods and as such require feeding on a daily basis. A large boat and crew is required to harvest macrofauna (kelp) in huge volumes. With all that food, comes a whole lot of feces, which must be cleaned thoroughly before feeding again.

Again, the cost of housing abalone is high, because they must be contained within a protected enclosure to prevent predators. This is a huge cost when compared to the relative simplicity of hanging pearl oysters from lines.

This is to not suggest abalone pearls are not viable in other parts of the world, but our experiences here should give you an idea as to the marginality of the undertaking.
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uh, sorry.Let me try again. White and red abalone seem to be sustainable and are cultivated in the US. Specific research will tell you what other species might be farmed.. Black abalone is on the CITIES list.

from wikipedia:

An abalone farm

See also: Aquaculture and Mariculture
Farming of abalone began in the late 1950s and early 1960s in Japan and China.[10] Since the mid-1990s, there have been many increasingly successful endeavors to commercially farm abalone for the purpose of consumption.[11] 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, Japan, and Korea. Abalone is also farmed in Australia, Hawaii, Canada, Chile, France,[12] Iceland, Ireland, Mexico, Namibia, New Zealand, South Africa, Thailand, and the United States.[13]
Also:[citation needed]
there is this from Scientific American.
South Africa will lift on Friday its nearly three-year-old ban on commercial abalone fishing, a move that a wildlife group says will send the highly valued and highly poached species spiraling toward extinction.
Known in South African as perlemoen, abalone (specifically the Haliotis midae species) has long been a cash cow for the nation’s fishermen, with thousands of tons taken from coastal waters every year. Although there is a legal, regulated abalone industry in South Africa, much of that catch has been illegal; it is caught by unlicensed poachers and smuggled to Asia where abalone is valued as a purported aphrodisiac. Organized crime syndicates, primarily Chinese triad gangs, have been the major players in this field. The Triads often pay for the perlemoen with methamphetamine, which in turn has fueled an increase in violent crime throughout South Africa. In 2006 South African authorities confiscated more than one million perlemoen from smugglers (representing just a portion of the total amount believed to have been poached).
Threat of extinction

Abalones have been identified as one of the many classes of organism threatened with extinction due to acidification of oceans from anthropogenic carbon dioxide,[30] as reduced pH erodes their shells. It is predicted that abalones will become extinct in the wild within 200 years at current rates of carbon dioxide production.

So, they are legally raised in many countries from not-endangered species. And, farms may be the only way to keep them in the future....
If there are other abalone businesses, then your person can do it too. Some depends on where you are- I was assuming you are in the US where it is sustainable, legal and ethical. But it depends on the country on a case by case basis.
this link contains a bibliography of scientific and NOAA articles

I thught I gave you a detailed response on the pearls, which you asked about separately. Pearls is our part of the abalone trade. If you are in one of the other abalone farming countries, then the go to guy for pearl sales would probably be a different wholesale buyer. Unless you want to sell the pearls direct. The market is weak for abalone pearls, but that is because they are rare.
You may need to scratch white abalone. Red and green abalone seem to be plentiful. There seems to be a lot of illegal fishing of wild abalone going on. It appears to be a wild and wooly wild trade going on.

If a farm uses the plentiful species, then it seems perfectly ethical to farm abalone in the above countries. I couldn't research shipping between countries for you. Sorry. Black abalone is the REALLY illegal one.
The farms in California and Mexico I mentioned in my first answer, are successful as well, esp the ones around Monterrey CA.

I would not try cultivating abalone pearls without research and an apprenticeship, but the natural pearls do occur over the season. Not very many compared to the number of abalone raised, though.

this page lists sellers all over the world. http://www.alibaba.com/showroom/abalone-farm.html