About Paua


Appearance:Roughly oval shaped shell, with a row of several holes used for breathing and reproduction.
Size: Up to 180mm in length for the black-foot, usually 10-140mm; yellow-foot up to 110mm, and the whitefoot up to 80mm.
Colour: The inside of the shell is multicoloured with blue and green hues predominant in the black-foot; flesh is white with a black covering.
Food: Seaweed.
Habitat: Sub-tidal, rocky coastline.
Predators:Crabs, lobsters, octopuses, starfish and fish
Availability for fishing:More abundant in the lower North Island and the South Island, where it is colder; available all year round.


New Zealand’s three native species of päua are distinctive because of their amazing multi-coloured shells. Päua are very important for Mäori and there is a large commercial market for both their flesh and their decorative shells. Päua exports rose from $34 million in 1991 to a peak of $80 million in 2001, before dropping to $51 million in 2003. There is also a large recreational fishery for päua.
Two species of päua were introduced into the Quota Management System (QMS) in 1986. The QMS monitors stocks and catches, allowing the government to set Total Allowable Catch (TAC) limits for individual species to ensure the sustainability of New Zealand’s fisheries. The QMS provides quotas which provide the right to harvest the species in perpetuity. These rights can be bought, sold or leased, allowing the creation of asset values for this resource. As at 2003, the total asset value of New Zealand’s päua resource managed under the QMS was $330 million, with the Chatham Islands having the highest regional value of $75 million.

What are they like?

New Zealand’s päua, (known as abalone in other countries), are all unique species of abalone
found only in New Zealand, and are distinguished by their brilliantly coloured shells. Päua have an oval shaped shell, inside which is a large muscular foot which clings to rocks. They have a pair of eyes, a mouth and tentacles, and breathe through gills which are near their mouth under a row of pores in the shell.

Where are they found?

Päua are found around the coast of New Zealand, in shallow water clinging to rocks. They are much more abundant, and grow larger, in the colder waters around Stewart Island and Southland.

What is their life cycle?

Male and female päua release thousands of sperm and eggs into the water through the holes in their shells, an event known as broadcast spawning. The fertilised eggs hatch into microscopic larvae which float around for about a week then settle on the bottom of the ocean and start to develop shells. The survival rate of päua is very low since many juveniles do not find a suitable habitat in which to grow, and are subject to predation. Surviving juveniles continue to be susceptible to predation, especially from starfish which cover the päua breathing holes, forcing it to detach from the rock it was clinging to.

How are they caught?

Päua are caught when fishers free dive (diving without the use of breathing apparatus) and use blunt instruments to prise the shellfish from the rock.
Information sourced from Statistics New Zealand. www.stats.govt.nz

Information sourced from Statistics New Zealand. www.stats.govt.nz