Celebrating Lunar New Year: Abalones

We all know that sharks' fins are uncool to eat. If you don't, here's more information.

But what about our other favourite seafood delicacies? Particularly enjoyed during the Lunar New Year.

Did you know that abalone is a snail? Yup. It is NOT a clam!

Do you know WHERE your abalone comes from?

Abalone is currently farmed in many countries. However, due to the high demand and price, illegal over-collection is rampant and puts severe pressure on wild populations. Some species, like the one in Africa, are on the verge of extinction. The illegal trade in abalone is huge and often involves organised crime.

In Africa, the abalone species Haliotis midae is found nowhere else. Called perlemoen, this species was listed on Appendix II of CITES in May 07 as it was threatened by over-collection. According to TRAFFIC "Illegal exploitation of abalone in South Africa is believed to be the most criminalized wildlife trade in Africa today". Ironically, a ban on collection may actually push the African abalone to extinction as it will spur illegal collection.

In Australia, despite aquaculture of the native abalone species, overharvesting of will caught abalone remains high and is also associated with criminal activities. The situation is similar in New Zealand, where "The Ministry of Fisheries expects in the year 2004/05, nearly 1,000 tons of abalone will be poached, with 75% of that being undersized".

So what should we do about eating abalones?

  • Find out where your abalones come from.
  • Tell your supplier and supermarket you prefer abalones from sustainable sources.
  • Eat less abalones.
  • Eat what you take. Don't throw away abalones! (or any food for that matter).
Links to more information

Five things not to eat for Chinese New Year
TRAFFIC 9 Feb 07

Abalone to come under international trade controls
TRAFFIC 5 Feb 07

South Africa: Ban May Push Abalone to Extinction
Miriam Mannak, Inter Press Service (Johannesburg) 24 Jan 08;

$40,000-a-table reunion meal of endangered wildlife
Straits Times 20 Jan 08;

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