Wild abalone populations on the U.S. West Coast has been decimated by predation, disease, loss of habitat and overfishing. However, farmed supply is alleviating the harvest shortfall; worldwide, more than 15 abalone species are commercially cultivated.
The most popular and common abalone in the North American market is the red abalone, available as farmed product from California. The only viable population of black abalone in North America surrounds San Miguel Island off the southern California coast, not far from where we are right now. The average size of wild-caught abalone is very large, 30 centimetres, with meat weight averaging 450 grams per animal.
Farmed abalone average 10 centimetres in length and are grown either in onshore saltwater pens, or in suspended cages. The farmed abalone take three to four years to reach marketable size which are very small and fit easily into the palm of your hand.
The abalone in the photo and picture is wild caught off the seas of Japan.