Marine gastropod molluscs. Sea ears. Abalone. Sea snails. The iridescent nacre that lines the inside of the shells is always fascinating. Such a pretty shell produces calcium carbonate that triggers all sorts of allergic reaction and causes secondary infections.
Approximately, 1/3 of the weight of the abalone is shell, 1/3 is meat and 1/3 is offal. I love eating abalone and never tire of them. Mariculture is largely done for white and red abalone. However, I'm watching the extinction rate closely. The black abalone is close to extinction in California and research is poured into cultured abalone which seems to be making headway since 2005. White abalone is threatened too. Northern (also known as pinto) abalone is endangered as well. The South African abalone faces the threat of extinction through overfishing and there's an intense debate in the country over a proposed ban on fishing for abalone. In spite of the encouragement for saltwater farming of the shellfish, illegal trade still soar. Australia and New Zealand's black and green-lipped abalone seem stable for the now.
Sigh. For a little while more, I'll accumulate bad karma and continue with the ordering of abalone at the restaurants, especially after clarifying their sources and types of abalone available on the menu. I avoid the controversial South African abalone, no matter how 'valuable' or 'exquisite' they're touted to be. At Hinoki for a last-minute late dinner, the chefs somehow thought I might turn up and managed to keep a serving of abalone for me. What a nice gesture. They know how much I love the taste of the sea snail crunchy raw or tenderly cooked.