South African Abalone Export Council


Abalone are marine snails from the family Haliotidae. Their shells have a spiral structure with several open respiratory pores near the outer edge. The thick inner layer of the shell is highly iridescent, with strong changeable colours. Abalone shells are valued for jewelry and decoration and as a source of mother of pearl. It is the flesh of the abalone that is highly prized. This desirable food may be eaten raw or cooked by various means.

Abalone has the benefits of being high in protein and has a combination of essential minerals and vitamins – calcium, iron, potassium, zinc, beta carotene. It has a low fat content and almost no cholesterol present.

South African Abalone (Haliotis Midae)
better known as "Perlemoen"

South Africa lies on the Southern tip of Africa. It is where the Indian Ocean meets the Atlantic Ocean. Two great ocean currents dominate. The cool Benguela Current brings valuable nutrients to the West Coast, to the kelp and seaweed on which abalone naturally feeds. The Agulhas Current brings warm waters which are good for rapid abalone growth and maturity. These pristine and pollution-free waters are nutrient-rich to bring perfect conditions for South African abalone.

The endemic abalone species in South Africa is Haliotis midae, which is called the South African Abalone. It is known locally as “Perlemoen“, from the Afrikaans and the Dutch word perlemoer, which means ‘mother of pearl’. South African abalone is considered one of the best in the world and has a prestige reputation in Hong Kong, China and the many Far Eastern countries.

South African abalone is sought-after for its superior taste and succulent texture. It is so prized that poaching and illegal commercial harvesting have become widespread. This has led to strict endangered species protection and the prohibition of local sales of fresh meat without a permit.

The South African abalone meat and products are free of growth hormones, antibiotics, preservatives, or other chemicals. You can thus be confident that South African abalone has come from sustainable and environmentally friendly farms. Further, the pure meat adheres to the most stringent of international conservation, food safety standards and accreditation.

Abalone Farming

South African abalone is cultured using advanced farming systems. These are the best solution to fight against illegal poaching. Our world class farms produce approximately 2% of total global abalone production. Abalone farming and expansion is set to increase over the next few years.

The world-class farms recreate the natural environment. The farming is modern, efficient and environmentally sustainable. South African abalone are grown in tanks/pools using a recirculating system which means the tanks are either completely (closed) or partly separated (open) from the ocean. Plentiful pristine seawater is circulated through the tanks/pools. This ensures a constant supply of cool, aerated water for growing the abalone. They are fed a diet of freshly harvested kelp, farm produced sea lettuce, and formulated food. The abalone takes 3 to 4 years to reach a marketable size.

The South African abalone council members provide hundreds of jobs for the local communities.

Food Safety

The South African Abalone Industry is governed by the Marine Living Resources Act which uses Regulations and a Shellfish Monitoring Program to ensure industry compliance to Food Safety Standards. The Legislative Framework also provides for Environmental Sustainability, Bio Security, Animal Welfare and Animal Disease control.

The South African Abalone Export Council takes food safety very seriously and all council members ensure that every product is of the highest quality and environmental standards. 

Member farming sites meet the most demanding of local and international technical, aquaculture and quality regulations. This includes strict controls by the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environmental Affairs (DFFE) shellfish monitoring program and by the National Regulator of Compulsory Specifications (NRCS).

The NRCS is the regulatory arm of the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) and the mandated authority for food safety in South Africa. 

South Africa is also a signatory to the Codex Alimentarius International Food Standards


The abalone export council is very active in making sure that all market development activities includes all levels of sustainability – from farm to fork. The only sustainable way to source abalone is through aquaculture. 

Members are affiliated and many have received complete international accreditation from the Aquaculture Stewardship Council, The Southern African Sustainable Seafood Initiative (SASSI), Global Gap and HACCP in facilitating Good Aquaculture Practices. 

More effective government standards, resources and stronger support is required against the illegal trade of abalone and the increasing levels of Abalone Poaching in South Africa.