By Ellen Walsh
Photos by Michael Walsh and Steve Aja

Tucked 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 the world.

On 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 farming.

With 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.

Click on Images for Captions

First 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.

We 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 life.

Out of the 15 – 30 million abalone that have been spawned, 10 – 15% will make it into stage two of life.

Stage 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.

Stage 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.

You 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.

Diet 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!

Size 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.

Each bag is approximately 10 lbs.
It is shipped at abut 50 – 55 degrees temperature.
1200 lbs a week get shipped into the Los Angeles sushi market.

The Abalone Market
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.

“The 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.”

Frozen Abalone from the Abalone Farm can be purchased at Please call us direct if you have need for a live abalone shipment. Minimum orders will apply.

Best 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 in on line shop) defrost, then tenderize by hammering while still in the plastic covering.

This 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.

Fresh Abalone On-line Today !


Great Abalone Recipes Links:
Abalone Chowder
Abalone Cioppino
Abalone Dore
Abalone Medallions
Beurre Blanc Sauce

Other Related Links:
The Abalone Farm
Memories from Guglionesi
Edward Pizzuti - Bio

Magazine Article Pdf

NutraFoodies |  Food & Beverage International  |  California the Magazine   | Who's In The Store 
Market-Place |  Nutra News |  New Products |  Advertisers |  Archives
  | Natural & Organic  | Events  Shop-Online
Articles  |  Travel Links
|  Natural Organic  Healthy Sustainable  Renewable  |  About Us |  Media Kit

©2007 - 2008 NutraFoodies Magazine
All Rights Reserved. | Contact Us | Feedback