Photos by Michael Walsh and Steve Aja
into a private corner off the rugged Pacific Coast,
is an eco system so perfect for the spawning and farming
of abalone, that it cannot be duplicated anywhere in
site producer Brad Buckley of The Abalone Farm in Cayacus,
California was there on a clear and beautiful day to
show us around, showing us the ins and outs of abalone
controlled fertilization through wild abalone, this
highly acclaimed, sustainably managed aquaculture facility
harvests 1.5 – 3 tons of abalone per week, supplying
sushi restaurants world wide with live abalone.
on Images for Captions
Stage of Growth – Infancy through the First Eight
Months of Life (xx)
The eggs are in buckets in the
“hatchery” – infused with the wild
abalone sperm. They hatch within 24 hours and are transferred
to tanks after 5 days. In the nursery, they are no longer
eggs – they are baby abalone.
first entered the nursery, a term loosely used to describe
the months old abalone as they lay on the bottom of
well ventilated tanks waiting to grow. They have already
been infused with the sperm of the wild abalone. During
this process, attention is paid to the growth process
of the growing abalone, attempting to keep like sizes
with like sizes, readjusting their tank locations through
painstakingly delicate methods. Their light greenish
color becomes more apparent as they grow, as they hunker
down for their cozy 8 month stay of their first stage
of the 15 – 30 million abalone that have been
spawned, 10 – 15% will make it into stage two
Two – 8 Months to 2 Years Old
Once the abalone have survived
the critical stage of its infancy, they are ready to
move into the sunlight. Grouped together in their first
outdoor tanks located right outside their former nursery,
they feed on whole algae, and take on a light greenish
and blue color. The size of these delicate beings rest
easily on the fingernail of a hand.
Three – 2 Years to 4 Years
After their second year of life,
they will make but one more move, and that is to the
larger tanks on the other side of the farm, where the
current of the moving water is a little stronger, but
the constant supply of seaweed and algae is constant.
Their natural habitat of sunlight and seaweed is all
these feisty little sea creatures need to grow and thrive.
may be surprised at the usage of the word “feisty”
when describing abalone. During the final stages of
the abalone’s growth, they show an amazing amount
of vigor and strength. We were surprised at the coaxing
it took to pull an abalone off its resting perch. They
held on tight, and the other abalone definitely reacted
to the disturbance of one of their own being lifted
from the waters. Brad held one of the abalone in its
hand for us, and we were amazed at the tenacity of its
feet as it moved around, and finally settled, into a
position on Brad’s hand.
of the Abalone
Themain diet of the abalone is
algae and seaweed, conveniently grown in the Pacific
ocean just off the shores of the farm. If you look at
the photograph of the farm overlooking the ocean, you
will see a light brown haze over the water, just a couple
hundred yards off the jagged shore’s edge. That
is, in fact, the algae and seaweed that feeds the abalone
through all its stages of growth. In the early stages
of infancy, the algae is fed through a tube into the
tanks, and in the later stages, the seaweed is fed whole.
So abundant and fast growing is this ocean bed of nutrition,
that the abalone farmers never even have to go below
the surface of the water to collect the algae. They
just snip off the top 5 inches, collecting less than
10% of the available crop. And it’s a wonder they
even take 10% of the kelp. It grows back at the rate
of 1 inch per hour!
of the Abalone
Moving the abalone through their
stages is primarily a function of age. The average size
of the harvested Abalone is 3.25 ounces, to 4 ounces
in the shell. The meat usually represents about 30%
of the abalone’s weight. Once it reaches its optimum
weight, growth slows down tremendously in the Abalone
Farm. A nine year old abalone can be as big as 7 inches.
The shell just grows right along with the abalone as
it matures, keeping the same shell throughout its lifetime.
bag is approximately 10 lbs.
It is shipped at abut 50 – 55 degrees temperature.
1200 lbs a week get shipped into the Los Angeles
The Abalone market is
a thriving market. Over 1200 lbs a week get shipped
into the Los Angeles sushi market alone. Approximately
two tons of abalone are harvested a week at the Abalone
Farm, and are shipped world wide.
challenge in abalone farming is to never over harvest
due to the pressure of demand”, says on site manager
Brad Buckley. “If you over harvest, you are ultimately
bringing your size down. If you bring your size down,
you are bringing in less money. Then it takes you a
good 6 – 8 months of a low harvest to recover
what you’ve lost.”
Abalone from the Abalone Farm can be purchased at www.fbworld.com.
Please call us direct if you have need for a live abalone
shipment. Minimum orders will apply.
Way To Handle And Cook Abalone
When you have a live abalone,
immediately shuck it out of the shell, foot side down,
by placing a thin fillet knife against the inside of
the flat portion of the shell, and move it inward, cutting
the muscle attachment close to the shell. The muscle
tissue is amazingly reactive. You want it to die, and
relax. Remove the meat from the shell. Trim the head,
gills, and viscera. Again, lay the abalone foot side
down. Place the knife forward of the point where the
meat was attached to the shell, and cut at a 45 degree
angle down and forward. Tenderize gently with a meat
mallot. If you do not have a meat mallot, the broad
side of a knife will do. While alive, do a quick sauté
in a hot skillet coated with either oil or butter, after
you have dipped it with egg wash, or coated it with
flour. If it is tough, it means it was not handled properly.
Do not refrigerate live abalone. Just cool it in natural
air. If you are working with frozen abalone, (available
on line shop) defrost, then tenderize by hammering while
still in the plastic covering.
article is about California Red Abalone, indigenous
to the cold Pacific ocean waters. These are a little
more challenging to work with than the abalone spawned
out of the warmer waters throughout the world, and as
such always need to be coated first, in either an egg
wash, or a sprinkle of flour. There must always be either
butter or olive oil in the pan. The direct contact with
the hot pan will make the red abalone tough.
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