Pāua (known as abalone in other countries) are a unique species of shellfish found only in New Zealand. Learn more about how to gather pāua, including specific rules and guidelines that help keep their population sustainable.
Daily catch and legal size limits
Pāua are a precious resource both for their flesh and their multi-coloured shells. Legal size limits are set to allow pāua to reach maturity and breed before becoming large enough to harvest.
A maximum of 10 pāua of each species can be taken per fisher a day. Some areas may have other restrictions and rules.
Use sustainable practices
To protect the sustainability of New Zealand pāua:
- use underwater measuring devices
- never use sharp objects when removing pāua from a reef
- return undersized pāua as you found them
- keep pāua in sea water and out of the sun
- keep within the size and bag limits
- take only a few pāua from each area
- never remove or shuck pāua from its shell
- never use or carry underwater breathing apparatus (UBA) when collecting pāua.
You can use our pāua knife to remove pāua without damaging them and check they are the right size. Request yours from your local fisheries office.
Download our pāua brochure for a summary of the rules and methods for gathering pāua, including daily catch limits and legal size information, measurement instructions, methods and guidelines for collecting and handling pāua, and what to do if you see suspicious or illegal activity.
Pāua brochure [PDF, 2.7 MB]
Video: A guide to gathering pāua (1:36)
[Fisheries officers Justine and Tokanui address the camera directly, between video footage described below.]
Justine: Pāua can be found along much the New Zealand coastline.
Tokanui: Pāua's been taking a hammering from poaching and incorrect handling.
Justine: To ensure pāua is around for a while make sure you understand the rules for your area.
[A man crosses a beach carrying fins, a collecting bag and an orange plastic pāua knife/ruler.]
Justine: Pāua can be taken while snorkeling or sometimes by gathering at low tide.
[He rinses a dive mask in the water with the ruler/knife on the rocks next to him. He enters the water wearing a mask and snorkel. He is seen underwater wearing the snorkel.]
Justine: If you are snorkeling for pāua, no breathing apparatus is permitted. This gives pāua stocks a chance to replenish in deeper water where they can't be reached.
Tokanui: When snorkeling it's a good idea to check the size of the pāua on the spot so it has a better chance of survival if it is below the minimum size.
[The diver measures a pāua on a rock underwater.]
Tokanui: If it looks of size, gently slide a knife between the pāua and the rock, being careful not to injure the pāua as it will often bleed to death when it's been cut.
[The diver uses the plastic knife/ruler to remove the pāua from the rock, then turns it over to measure it again on the underside.]
Tokanui: If it does work out to be too small place it back where got it and hold it there for a few seconds.
[The diver places a pāua on a rock underwater and leaves his hand on it momentarily.]
Justine: Under normal circumstances you're allowed to take 10 legal-sized pāua per day. But that doesn't mean you have to get that every time. 10 might be more than you need.
Tokanui: To shuck a pāua run your thumb between the pāua and the shell. You will feel it separate. Remove the skirt and the 2 teeth at the front of the pāua. And there you have it. Ready to tenderise.
[A diver in a boat measures the underside of a pāua. We see someone insert his thumb between the flesh of the pāua and the shell almost to the second knuckle, then begin to slide his thumb around the edge of the shell to further separate it.
Justine: By following these steps, we know that our future generations can enjoy pāua.
Get text alerts on your area. Text your region name to 9889.
[A mobile phone is shown with text on the screen:
Report poaching, suspicious, or illegal activity – call 0800 4 POACHER (0800 47 62 24) or email email@example.com.
You can help us by providing:
- the location
- vehicle/trailer registration number
- boat name
- description of the person
When reporting any suspected poaching put your personal safety first. All calls and personal details are treated as confidential.