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Abalone is the Spanish name used in the United States for various species of shellfish (mollusks) from the Haliotidae family (genus Haliotis), with a richly coloured (on the inside--the outside is rough and mostly brown) shell yielding mother-of-pearl. This is also commonly called ear-shell, in Guernsey ormer (Fr. ormier, for oreille de mer), and paua in New Zealand.

Abalone is also prevalent in Australian and South African coastal waters and is highly valued. There is an extensive black market in the collection and export of abalone meat.

The abalone shell is found especially at Santa Barbara and other places on the Californian coast from the south up to Fort Bragg and beyond, and when polished makes a beautiful ornament. Abalone are also quite populous in New Zealand, where they are called paua in the Maori language, and are extremely popular as souvenirs. The muscle tissue of the mollusc is often eaten, and the gonads of the abalone are delicacies in China and Japan.

There has been a trade in diving to catch abalones off parts of the USA coast from before 1939. In WWII many of these abalone divers were recruited into the USA armed forces and trained as frogmen.

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Last updated: 02-09-2005 15:19:28