"Abalone are edible sea snails, or gastropod mollusc, which are part of the Family Haliotidae."
They have a soft unsegmented body, which is protected by an ear-shaped shell. The shell is perforated with several respiratory pores along the outer edge and the interior of the shell shines with mother-of-pearl.
They attach themselves to rocks with their strong muscular foot and a flat blade is needed to pry them off. They are commonly found in water between 2 and 20 metres deep. You mustn’t fish intertidal waters (within 2 metres deep). Bottom reef and rock ledges and islands like the one pictured below are the perfect spot to dive for abalone.
Blacklip and Greenlip are the largest and most common types of abalone. The Blacklip has a bumpy shell of reddish to brownish in colour and a black lip around its foot. It is most common off the coast of New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania.
The Greenlip has a smooth shell and is grayish to greenish in colour with a green lip around its foot and is most prolific off the south coast of Western Australia, South Australia, Victoria and northern Tasmania.
A measuring gauge should be carried at all times and the fish must be measured prior to detachment to avoid damaging them. These fish bleed to death if cut so care must be taken and only removed if sized. Measure the fish across the widest part of the shell and remove with a blunt tool. A netting bag is perfect to store the catch in while diving and tying the gauge to your wrist is handy.
Bag limits are the amount of fish a fisherman is permitted to catch on any day and are generally combined totals including both Greenlip and Blacklip. The smaller Roe’s abalone are found in southern WA and part of SA.
Possession limits apply to your boat (depending on the number of fishermen aboard) or place of residence. These generally differ to the daily bag limits, include combined catches of various species and are subject to change as are size limits. The hefty penalties make it worth checking with the Department of Fisheries prior to fishing. There are too many stipulations to list possession limits in detail.
|LOCATION||ABALONE||SIZE (cm)||BAG LIMIT (per person)|
|SA (western zone)||Greenlip||14.5||5|
|SA (all other waters)||Greenlip||13||5|
|SA (all other waters)||Blacklip||13||5|
|SA (all waters)||All other species||13||5|
|TAS (northern waters)||Blacklip||12.7||10|
|TAS (southern waters)||Blacklip||13.8||10|
|TAS (northern waters between Perkins Bay & Bridport)||Greenlip||13.2||10|
|TAS (all other waters)||Greenlip||14.5||10|
|VIC||Blacklip||11-13 (interim zones, sizes vary)||5|
The rules and regulations applying to abalone fishing differ between states and some states are even further divided into several zones. Regulations applying to particular zones, the closure of zones, introduction of new zones and permitting or prohibiting fishing in them for interim periods are subject to change. The fishing seasons also change from year to year and some regions or zones only allow one specific day a month or each weekend within a certain period.
These strict rules can be downloaded in brochure format on the state fisheries websites, which is highly recommended and are updated according to local and current regulations. Local tackle shops and Visitor Centres in popular fishing areas usually keep plenty of brochures on hand also, which are available for free.
Licences are required in most Australian states to fish for abalone as stocks are limited due to the high demand, particularly on the export market. There is also the unfortunate practice of illegal fishing, concerning bag, size and possession limits. If you are caught by the Department of Fisheries with undersized fish or more than your quota you can face some serious and extremely costly charges. Fishing licences can be applied for online with state fisheries and fees and types of licences vary between states.
Abalone fishing licence required.
Northern Zone - Greenough River mouth near Geraldton, north to the NT border.
West Coast Zone - Greenough River mouth, south to Busselton Jetty.
Southern Zone - Busselton Jetty, east to the SA border.
Ph: (08) 9482 7333
Website: WA Fisheries
No licence required.
Southern zone - coastal waters east of longitude 139º east
Central zone - coastal waters between longitude 136º 30' east and 139º east
Western zone - coastal waters west of longitude 136º 30' east
Ph: 08 8204 1380
Website: SA Fisheries
New South Wales
Saltwater fishing licence required.
Port Stephens to Botany Bay
Botany Bay to Wreck Bay
Ph: 1300 550 474
Website: NSW Fisheries
Recreational sea fishing licence required.
Northern waters - boundary is the mouth of the Arthur River on the West Coast and Musselroe Point on the East Coast.
Southern waters - boundary is the mouth of the Arthur River on the West Coast and Musselroe Point on the East Coast.
Ph: 1300 368 550
Website: TAS Fisheries
Recreational fishing licence required.
Central Victorian Waters – Aire River to Arch Rock
All other waters – west of Aire River and east of Arch Rock
Ph: 136 186
Website: VIC Fisheries
Note abalone gut is prohibited as bait in order to prevent the spread of a disease, known as Abalone Viral Ganglioneuritis (AVG), which affects the fish throughout their nervous system. It is not known to be harmful to humans, however can spread rapidly throughout the marine community, affecting both Greenlip and Blacklip species as well as hybrids of the two. Symptoms include curling of the lip inwards to expose shiny interior shell, protruding parts of the mouth and stiffness or lack of movement.
These delicious marine creatures are considered to be a delicacy in many countries and we want to stop the spread of AVG as well as we can. Ways you can help are to shuckle (clean) your catch at home and dispose of all of the remaining shells properly, do not shuckle at sea or anywhere near the tide mark, do not move fish to other locations and make sure you clean, disinfect and dry your fishing and diving gear properly.
Please do the right thing and happy Ab fishing!