Abalone production continues to grow, coupled with continuing demand, prices high and stable


The report analyses the market situation over the year 2016.

2016 global production of abalone figures are not yet available, however it is forecasted that production will be slightly lower than in 2015, when it grew by 11 percent compared with 2014 (over 150 000 tonnes), bolstered by another record year for Chinese production. In the latter months of 2016, robust demand resulted in record high prices for premium size and whole live/fresh species as high as US$80 per kg.

Abalone is one of the most expensive of any seafood worldwide. Production has shifted from wild caught to farmed, and today over 95% of abalone comes from aquaculture. China is easily the leading producer of farmed abalone in the world, producing over 127 000 tonnes in 2015, and remains the foremost consuming country. The Republic of Korea is the second largest worldwide producer, producing over 10 000 tonnes in 2015. In terms of wild-caught, Australia is the third largest producer and has the world’s largest remaining capture abalone fishery, landing nearly 4 500 tonnes in 2015. In terms of trade, for 2016, China, Australia and the Republic of Korea were the leading exporters while Hong Kong SAR, Japan and Singapore were the leading importers, in that order.

For more of a background on abalone, please see the first GLOBEFISH market report



China consumes 90 percent of all the abalone it produces, with current domestic prices averaging about US$26 per kg. Export prices for larger sizes and premium species were over US$40 per kg. The seemingly insatiable domestic demand continues, with exports decreasing by more than 18 percent in 2016 compared with 2015, in order to fulfill Chinese consumption.

Republic of Korea

Domestic demand for abalone is somewhat sluggish, but has been more than offset by the growth in export volumes, which have increased by over 100 percent in 2016 compared with 2015, sparked by Chinese demand for seed and juvenile abalone. As a result, export prices are stronger than domestic. Future internal demand as well as export volumes will strengthen with the development of more premium processed products.


In 2016, Japan became the world’ssecond largest abalone importer. Among the most discerning abalone devotees, Japan’s wholesale Tsukiji fish market is considered a trendsetter for abalone demand and prices. Over the past two years, abalone prices   have been higher than compared with the last five year averages. Peak wholesale prices in the fall of 2016 soared as high JPY9 300 per kg (US$80). This contrasts with a five year average high of roughly JPY7 500 per kg (US$66). 

The Pacific


The rising export prices of abalone in Australia were largely caused by two factors: the strengthening of the Australian dollar compared with the Japanese yen and the growing demand from Japan, China, and other Asian countries.  During the later part of 2016, Australian wild abalone was priced at A$85 per kg free on board (FOB) (US$65 per kg).  As a point of reference, this is more than double the price of the world’s next highest priced fresh whole fish or shellfish.

New Zealand

Export quantities were down roughly 6 percent in 2016 compared with 2015. Some abalone fisheries were closed in zones affected by the Kaikoura magnitude 7.8 earthquake in November.                             


South Africa

Exports and prices of the South African premium abalone continued to be strong throughout 2016. Concern over Illegal Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing of abalone continues. South Africa’s Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) estimates the annual IUU trade at close to R440 million (US$33 million), meaning that IUU trade is roughly 50 percent of South Africa’s total abalone export value.                                                                           

An unprecedented naturally occurring algae bloom (red tide) occurred in early January 2017 and covered over nearly 500 km of coastline, negatively affecting South Africa’s major abalone producers. This will have some downward effect on export quantities in 2017.

North, South, Central America


Overall Mexican production of abalone in 2016 was 30 percent less than in 2015, which totaled a little over 600 tonnes. This reduction has lead to significant loss of income for grower cooperatives, which have thousands of members in the Baja California peninsula. Environmental issues caused by IUU fishing is blamed. The state and federal government have been organizing meetings with producers and scientists to work on a plan to recover the resource. With abalone farming still in its infancy in Mexico, there is significant room to develop the sector. 


In Chile, abalone aquaculture production is now a maturing industry, demonstrating steady production and export levels. 2016 exports grew by nearly 3 percent to total over 670 tonnes. World prices should encourage further abalone farming expansion.


For 2015, the USA produced around 340 tonnes of abalone, which is in line with 2014 volumes. A strong Japanese market resulted in increased export price levels for both California and Hawaiian farmers.


Remarkably, world demand has kept pace with the astounding 500 percent increase in farmed abalone production over the last 10 years (24 400 tonnes in 2006 to over 150 000 tonnes in 2015).  A possible consequence of this explosive growth could mean greater price fluctuations in the world marketplace.


The report analyses the market situation over the year 2016.

Photo credit: FreeImages.com/acidxpop

Share this page