Abalone

Abalone (Haliotis), genus of primitive marine gastropod molluscs with over 70 species worldwide. There are 2 species in Canada. The pinto abalone (Haliotis kamtschatkana) also known as the Japanese or northern ear shell, is found along the entire BC coast. The northern green abalone (H. walallensis) is found only in the waters of the southern edge of B.C. This large (up to 12 cm), limpetlike snail prefers semiprotected waters between the low intertidal zone and 18 m depth.

The abalone uses its powerful foot to fasten itself to rock surfaces. H. kamtschatkana is a gregarious species which grazes on drift and surface algae. Its ear-shaped shell has a wavy texture and bears, on its outer whorl, 4-5 respiratory pores which also act as exit ports for spawn and excreta. The shell's outer surface is mottled red-green. The blue-green iridescence of its inner pearly surface has made it popular with Northwest Coast Native people as material for jewellery and inlays. The abalone's soft, muscular parts (tenderized and grilled as steak or ground up for bisque) are a choice gourmet food. Its only other predators are sea stars and, occasionally, sea otters.