The abalone has proven to be a relatively easily cultured shellfish.  Methods to induce spawning, carry hatched larvae through their brief swimming period, culture postlarvae and juveniles, and finally rear young to adulthood, have been well worked out.  Readily available accounts are to be found in Hahn 1989 and Leighton 2000.  Initial efforts to cultivate abalone were done in Japan (Ino 1952) and a major program to seed juveniles in the ocean was underway by the early 1970s.  Buzz Owen and his associates at the Pacific Mariculture shellfish hatchery at Pigeon Point near San Francisco, was successful in cultivating the red abalone and several hybrid combinations with other California abalone species (Owen et al. 1971).  Private entrepreneurs in California, including the author, with plans to rear juveniles to market size adults in land-based tank systems began operations in 1968 (The Cayucos Abalone Farm; Leighton 1989, 2000).  By the mid-1980s there were six abalone farms in California and ten years later several more in Mexico.  At this writing, with the closure of the abalone fishery, farmed abalone, or wild-caught abalone imported from other countries, are the only legal sources of abalone served in local restaurants.

While seven species and one subspecies of abalones are native to California, two have been subjects of commercial aquaculture:  the red abalone,
Haliotis rufescens, and the green abalone (abulon azul in Mexico), Haliotis fulgens.  The pink abalone (abulon amarillo), Haliotis corrugata, has been cultured on a small scale, but its growth rate is usually slow and it has not been considered seriously as an aquaculture crop.  The red abalone is a cold water abalone, while the green is a warm water species.  Consequently most hatcheries in Southern California have concentrated on the green and those north of Point Conception have dealt almost exclusively with the red abalone.  We at the Carlsbad Aquafarm cultivate the green abalone and hybrid Red x Green abalone.  Pure red abalone do not tolerate the high summer water temperatures (22-25oC) there, but the hybrids do quite well.

Postlarval abalone at 1.7 mm, six weeks old.

Hard bound, color illustrated, 216 pp   
$44.95 US + shipping

Available from the author at the address provided for the Carlsbad Aquaculture Research Institute, or contact: dlleighton@olypen.com


Natural History
Abalone Aquaculture
Carlsbad Aquafarm
Juvenile Culture