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Asia Minute: Abalone Sea Ranching in Western Australia

midnightcomm / Flickr
midnightcomm / Flickr

One of the biggest abalone farms in the world is located in Hawai‘i. It’s on Hawai‘i Island—run by the Big Island Abalone Corporation. Across the Pacific, a different method of raising abalone is sparking new interest. HPR’s Bill Dorman has details in today’s Asia Minute.

In the waters off Western Australia, artificial reefs are home to a growing crop of abalone.  Those behind the project call it the world’s first sea ranch for abalone.  That’s a delicacy in many Asian countries—and demand is rising fast—especially in China.

The people running Ocean Grown Abalone say they’re about two years away from being able to produce about 100 tons of abalone each year.  They’re initially raised in hatcheries…and then transported to the artificial reef to grow to maturity.  The company’s founder is a marine scientist who says what they do is not so much aquaculture as ranching…because, in his words, “once they’re in the water, they look after themselves.”

Those who work in the abalone industry in Western Australia have also united to have their efforts recognized as sustainable.  Last week, the Abalone Industry of Western Australia announced it’s on track to receive certification from the Marine Stewardship Council.  Abalone poaching remains an issue in Australia—and law enforcement officials and courts are cracking down on offenders.  According to the Australian newspaper “The Age,” the head of an illegal abalone syndicate was sentenced to nearly three years in prison just last week….and further prosecutions are expected.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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