About New Zealand Paua (Abalone)

Paua is a species of abalone (Haliotis Iris). It is only found in the sea around New Zealand. This marine mollusc (shellfish) eats seaweed and lives clinging to rocks at depths of 1-10 meters, normally along the shoreline.

Paua meat is a traditional delicacy of the Maori, the indigenous people of Aotearoa (New Zealand). Although it is harder to find today than it used to be, many New Zealanders still rate Paua alongside oysters as their preferred shellfish. Gathering Paua from favourite coastal fishing spots is still indulged in by Maori families with the Paua cooked in traditional style or simply shelled and eaten in their natural state.

The New Zealand Paua fishery is sustainably managed now. The New Zealand Quota Management System (QMS) is strictly enforced by Fisheries Officers to ensure the Paua fishery is maintained for future generations of New Zealanders. The QMS regulations limit the catch of commercial and recreational fishers as well controlling the size of Paua taken. Also commercial Paua divers can only free-dive to pry Paua off the rocks with the use of air tanks prohibited.

The Paua shell is a by product of Paua gathered for their meat and is the most colourful of all the abalone shells. The colour in the Paua shell changes when viewed at different angles. This iridescence, similar to that of Mother of Pearl shell, but far more brilliant, is what makes Paua shell so amazing as a gem material for use in jewellery. It is truly one of nature's marvels. Each shell is different in its colour toning, and in the patterns within the shell. The black patterns in the shell come from layers of protein that are laid down between the layers of calcium that make up the shell. The brilliant colours are from light being refracted within the crystal layers. The same effect that the iridescent colour that is found in Opals.

Paua shell was traditionally used by Maori to illuminate the eyes of their carving and artwork. The reddish coloured shell was most prized for depicting the flashing red eyes of the warrior. The use of Paua shell in all manner of jewellery and sculpture has become a distinctive feature of New Zealand artwork now.

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