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Government of Western Australia - Department of Fisheries

Abalone management

Abalone is taken by both commercial and recreational fishers in Western Australia. We manage both sectors together to help ensure long-term sustainability of stocks.

Three types of abalone – Roe’s, greenlip and browlip – are harvested, with most taken by the commercial sector.

We are phasing in an integrated fisheries management (IFM) approach to help ensure WA’s fisheries continue to be managed in a sustainable and fair manner. As part of this, recreational and commercial fishing sectors are allocated shares.
The IFM process has begun in the Perth metropolitan Roe’s abalone fishery (from Moore River mouth to Cape Bouvard). Recreational fishers have been allocated 40 tonnes and commercial fishers 36 tonnes annually. 
No abalone fishing, recreational or commercial, is permitted north of Moore River until further notice. This is to allow the abalone population to rebuild after almost all abalone in the Kalbarri area died as a result of a ‘marine heatwave’ – record high surface water temperatures – in 2010/11. 

WA abalone catch 2012

Commercial catch
Recreational catch​
​Roe’s abalone
67 tonnes
32.6 tonnes
(18.6 tonnes, Perth metro area; plus
14 tonnes in other regions – estimated)
​Greenlip/brownlip abalone
202 tonnes
8 tonnes
We manage recreational abalone fishing through bag and size limits, possession limits and closed fishing seasons. Fishers also require a licence to take abalone.
Recreational abalone fishing is managed in three zones: Zone 1 (West Coast Zone), from Busselton Jetty to the Greenough River mouth; Zone 2 (Northern Zone), from Greenough River mouth to the Northern Territory border; and Zone 3 (Southern Zone), from Busselton Jetty to the South Australian border.
No abalone fishing is permitted in Zone 2 (Northern Zone) or north of Moore River in Zone 1 (West Coast Zone) until further notice.
Greenlip and brownlip abalone are only taken in Zone 3 (Southern Zone), where fishing is permitted from 1 October until 15 May the following year.
Abalone stocks in Zone 1 (West Coast Zone) are especially vulnerable because they are located in our most populated regions, including off the Perth metropolitan coast, and easily accessible. To help keep stocks sustainable, fishing is only permitted for one hour a day on four Saturdays annually.
The commercial abalone fishery is divided into eight management areas (see the map below).

Commercial fishing management zones


Fishing is managed mainly through Total Allowable Commercial Catches (TACCs), set annually for each area and allocated to licence holders as individual transferable quotas (units of entitlement).
A minimum number of units must be associated with each licence. We can issue new licences if the prospective licensee can secure at least the minimum unit holding from existing licensees. This means the number of licences can vary over time but the total catch is limited by the TACC.
A TACC is set for the Roe’s abalone fishery and a separate TACC is set for the greenlip/brownlip fishery, which operates mainly off the south coast. Minimum legal abalone sizes apply.

The 2011 commercial catch of Roe’s abalone was only 90 per cent of the TACC and 10 tonnes lower than the 2010 catch, due to the closure of Area 8 and unfavourable weather in two other zones. The 2011 commercial catch of greenlip/brownlip abalone was similar to the 2010 catch.


Farmed abalone are not subject to size or quota restrictions.
Abalone farming is considered to have a relatively low environmental impact. Even so, there are strict management guidelines and legal requirements.
The Department is responsible for the environmental management of aquaculture in Western Australia. We manage environmental issues and biosecurity through Management and Environmental Monitoring Plans (MEMPs), which are prepared specifically for each aquaculture business, except for those growing prescribed fish on freehold land.

Monitoring, assessment and research

Stock assessments are carried out mainly by analysing data on catch and ‘effort’ (the amount of fishing) from commercial log books. The main performance measure for the abalone fisheries relates to maintaining adequate breeding stocks in each area. In 2011, abalone breeding stocks were assessed as adequate.

WA abalone status 2012

Breeding stock
levels ​
 Amount of fishing
​Roe’s abalone Adequate​
​Greenlip/brownlip abalone Adequate​
For Roe’s abalone, breeding stock status is assessed using a combination of the level of quota achieved and the effort required to achieve the quota, both of which reflect stock abundance. Catch per unit effort (CPUE) – the number or weight of the species caught by a unit of fishing effort, such as the amount of time spent fishing – is assessed.
In 2011, catch and CPUE were within the agreed ranges in most areas fished, indicating that overall breeding stock levels were adequate. The CPUE data is also used to help set or adjust quotas.
Information is also provided by industry divers who survey selected sites with underwater video cameras.

During the short recreational abalone fishing season along Perth reefs, a field survey is carried out to count the numbers of fishers on reefs and count and weigh their catches. A telephone survey is also sometimes used to estimate the Statewide recreational abalone catch.
The size and density of Roe’s abalone is measured annually at 13 indicator sites, including two unfished (protected) areas, between Mindarie Keys and Penguin Island.
Research is progressing on an in-season catch-prediction model, based on environmental conditions, for the Perth metropolitan fishery. This will help in making management decisions for recreational abalone fishing.
Research translocation trials are underway in an attempt to help the Kalbarri area stocks recover. The trials are being done with funding help from the Federal Government’s Seafood Cooperative Research Centre (CRC).
For greenlip/brownlip abalone, breeding stock status is assessed using a combination of measures that reflect the average size of breeding individuals and the overall biomass (the estimated total mass of the species in an area) of breeding stock.
The weight of abalone meat harvested is also calculated and length-frequency sampling (measuring the size of animals caught in the fishery) is done.
‘Mark-recapture’ analysis of growth and mortality in brownlip abalone – identifying the animals with an external tag and measuring the size and number of them in the same area over time – is also carried out. 

In addition, commercial abalone divers supply a random selection of abalone shells from each fishing day, which are measured and used to estimate fishing mortality (the amount of animals removed by fishing).
As with the Roe’s abalone industry, divers also survey selected sites with underwater video cameras.
More data is collected by our researchers from 140 sites across the fishery.
Research on stock enhancement continued in 2011/12 under an externally funded Seafood CRC project. The results will provide us and the aquaculture industry with information on the viability of stock enhancement.

Last modified: 21/07/2020 9:15 AM

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