I have. It’s delicious. Twice.
I hear it’s hard to prepare but every time I had it, it was prepared to perfection and the sheer novelty and excitement of trying something new that is grown in my backyard added to the experience.
So why can I not have any more and where is it all going to. Firstly, it’s price. It’s expensive! It costs about R2000 per kilogram and South Africans just can’t afford it. In Asia, however, they are very happy to pay that price.
Money also means that people are prepared to do almost anything to harvest this rich delicacy from our oceans.
This marine snail, which is what it really is, grows in other places but loves our cold waters and can be found off coasts of New Zealand, South Africa, Western North America and Japan. Not enough to feed the rampant demand from the East which can consume about 85 000 tons per year.
So, it was interesting to read of a massive harvest of farmed abalone which took place just off the PE coast under heavy security. 5 years ago, the ocean around Port Elizabeth was seeded with some 2 million abalone seedlings and now nearly 7 tons have been harvested.
To prevent poaching, a private security firm patrolled the 18km stretch of beach day and night, seven days a week using a special 8-man security team, night vision equipment and even a specially trained dog.
In a world where more than half the fish eaten comes from fish farming, South Africa does not do well and especially when it comes to abalone farming.
We have however, come a long way and now have an annual capacity of about 1400 tons on 12 land-based farms.
The owners Abagold, yes you read that right, say although that is a lot of abalone you would be stretched to find some in a South African restaurant as it is just too expensive for the South African market.
While I am delighted for the extra income that we achieve with farmed perlemoen, the violence and corruption connected with the industry concerns me.
Every year there are whispers that this may be the last year that wild perlemoen may be harvested off our shores due to the extensive poaching that takes place.
With my limited knowledge of aquaculture and a huge dose of Google acquired knowledge I have had this crazy idea.
Why not restock the ocean with abalone seedlings? Don’t laugh, hear me out.
Most of the PE stock essentially could come from the eggs of 1 female abalone. A 1.5-inch abalone can spawn 10 000 eggs at a time while an 8-inch abalone can spawn 11 million eggs or more. Here is the kicker. While most eggs fertilised in the ocean are eaten or die, farm reared eggs to seedling stage, almost all survive.
Why not seed the ocean with millions upon millions of abalone seedlings, enough to at least ensure its survival? Or am I grabbing at paper straws?