The Western Australian greenlip and brownlip abalone fishery is a dive fishery that operates in the shallow coastal waters off the south-west and south coasts of Western Australia.
The fishery targets the two biggest species of abalone found in State waters – the greenlip abalone (Haliotis laevigata), and brownlip abalone (H. conicopora), both of which can grow to about 20cm in shell length.
Abalone divers operate from small vessels (generally less than 9m long) using the principal harvest method of a diver working off ‘hookah’ (surface supplied breathing apparatus) or scuba gear. Divers use an abalone ‘iron’ to prise the shellfish off rocks – both commercial and recreational divers employ this method. The activity can be dangerous due to the presence of big sharks in these waters and divers often use a diving cage when working underwater.
The most recent figures show that there are 14 vessels operating in the commercial greenlip/brownlip abalone fishery, employing approximately 35 divers and deckhands.
The dispersed nature of the greenlip and brownlip abalone fishery means that small coastal towns from Busselton to the South Australian border receive income from the activity of divers.
Abalone is considered a delicacy in many Asian countries and there is a growing market for this product. In 2012 the fishery was valued at $8million.
Key Species Fished