Paua is the Maori name for the rainbow or black-footed abalone (Haliotis iris).
Abalone are found throughout the Pacific, but black-footed paua are endemic to New Zealand.
The univalve mollusc usually clings to the underside of rock ledges in shallow coastal waters.
Abalone feed on macroscopic algae that influence the colour of their shells.
A diet of brown algae furnishes the iridescent blue-greens and red algae the deep red-browns.
Paua may grow to be 17 cm long, while the red abalone found in California may reach 30 cm.
Abalone are valued by humans for their iridescent shells and 'abalone steaks'.
Natural predators include crabs, octopuses, fishes, seastars and sea otters (in California only).
The black muscular foot of paua is typically bleached to be acceptable to human consumers.
Abalone grounds have been depleted in some places due to overharvesting.
For example, the California abalone fishery south of San Francisco had to be closed in 1997.
Fishery management and recovery plans may help to conserve abalone stocks for the future.

Abalone aquaculture may be used to restore and restock natural populations.

© 2005 Sabine Lattemann
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"It is a fabulous place: when the tide is in, a wave-churned basin, creamy with foam, whipped by the combers that roll in from the whistling buoy on the reef. But when the tide goes out the little water world becomes quiet and lovely. The sea is very clear and the bottom becomes fantastic with hurrying, fighting, feeding, breeding animals. [...] A wave breaks over the barrier, and churns the glassy water for a moment and mixes bubbles into the pool, and then it clears and is tranquil and lovely and murderous again. [...] And salt spray blows in from the barrier where the ocean waits for its rising-tide strength to permit it back into the Great Tide Pool again."
John Steinbeck, Cannery Row, chapter 6

" [...] the ocean recedes leaving little pools, leaving wet weed and moss and sponge, iridescence and brown and blue and China red." (chapter 18)