Abalone: locally known as “sabra-sobra”, “lapas” or “kapinan”. As ifs local name suggest, its broad, ovate and, over-sized foot muscle, which is not totally covered by its single shell, characterizes abalones. In the Philippines, the most common species is the ‘donkey’s ear abalone (Haliotis asinina). Of several species of abalones in the country H. asinina was considered with commercial importance because of its bigger size, faster growth, and developed hatching and culture technology.
In other countries abalone farming was considered as “the black gold of the seas.” In our country we can consider abalone farming as the “new hope for Philippine aquaculture”, the gold mine of the orient seas.’ Abalones have been considered as a valuable fishery product It is priced in Chinese restaurants and served in various array of recipes. Abalones command high price, it is sold in live, fresh, blanched or in dried forms. These were frozen, vacuum packed and exported to Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, China, Australia, USA, Canada, Spain and, Netherlands.
Basic Biology of Donkey’s Ear Abalone
Abalones are single-shelled herbivorous gastropod inhabiting coastal reef zones. They live in rocky belts where waves are very rough. The shell is strong and well adapted to the rough environmental conditions, it is either round, elliptical or ear-shaped and has a row of respiratory pores (termata) located along its left margin.
The foot muscle (which is the edible portion in the abalone) has broad soles that allow the animal to strongly attached itself to substrates. Abalones are nocturnal, during daytime; they remain attached to stones or in between rocks; at night they creep around in search of food.
The feeding habits depend on the growth stages. Newly hatched larvae are dependent on their yolk for nutrition. When they become veligers, they begin to attach themselves to substrates where they start feeding on epiphytic diatoms that grow on the surface of natural and artificial substrates. When they reach the early juvenile up to the adult stage, they prefer feeding on macroalgae such as Gracilaria.
Potential Of Abalone Fisheries
- Species being harvested is Haliotis asinina
- Philippines an exporter of abalone.
- World market demand is high and still increasing
- Projected long term shortage
- Due to shortage, abalone prices are expected to rise
- Collapsing abalone fisheries worldwide
- Philippine geography has suitable sites for farming
- H. asinina is a suitable specie for culture
- Main markets are Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, Taiwan and, Singapore
- Foreseen long-term shortage of abalone in the world market.
- Developed hatching and culture technology.
- Culture of the tropical abalone has great economic potential that could be introduced for livelihood for coastal communities
Problems of Abalone Fisheries
- There is drastic decline in wild catch.
- H. asinina farming is limited and unpopular.
- Unregulated harvest from the wild stock
- Abalones are over-fished and depleted
- Harvested natural stocks were not replenished
- Limited farming and culture activities due to lack of technology and seed supply
- Farming of abalone is still an infant industry
- Philippine abalone exports are steadily declining due to declining wild catch
Advantages of H. asinina Culture
- Fast growth rate among other tropical abalone species.
- Availability of juveniles for stocking from hatcheries.
- Shorter culture period as compared to other abalone species.
- Readily available and abundant feed (seaweeds).