Abalone Wars


To avoid overfishing, diving for abalone is a heavily regulated industry which requires a quota and a license. Only 32 quotas exist in South Australia and each are worth millions of dollars.

Quotas must be filled with both black and green abalone - green is the most valuable but are found at greater depths. A divers' bag filled with abalone is worth approximately $2,000 and divers need to fill a minimum of three bags to break even on the overhead costs

China is the biggest importer of Australian abalone and pay approximately $150,000 per tonne. The current quota allowance is 7.5 tonnes equaling over $1 million and divers can fill this in less than 50 days.

Recreational scuba divers are allowed to take just five abalone per day.


With abalone selling for $20-$30 apiece, the rewards are significant. This also makes abalone highly attractive to the illegal poachers who pillage Australian waters.

While abalone diving requires a quota and license to practice, poachers continue to scour the coastline, keeping the ocean police on constant guard. For every ten tonnes of Abalone caught, one tonne is gathered illegally. It's a huge threat to fishing quotas, and is part of the reason why abalone divers have to move further out into the ocean each year seeking their catch.


Abalone live in some of the most dangerous waters in the ocean where the swells, cold currents and waves are at their fiercest. They rely on the currents to bring them drifting algae to eat. The fattest and most valuable abalone live in dangerous white water, forcing abalone divers to fish just metres from the perilous rocks where giant ocean waves pound.

A divers’ most feared enemy is the fearsome Great White Sharks.  Abalone divers design and construct their own cages that provide minimal resistance, but can potentially save divers from an attack.

The most vulnerable time for an abalone diver is descending to the ocean floor and returning to the surface, as Great White Sharks attack from below. Diver's race to the bottom for protection, surfacing as little as possible during their shifts to reduce the risk of shark attacks.

The majority of divers work without a shark cage. Instead they rely on a 'Shark Shield', an anti-shark device to protect them. However these devices are not 100% effective and many attacks have occurred even when victims were wearing one.


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Abalone Wars

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