Sweet, rich and tender with a buttery finish, abalone is a highly valued seafood species in Australia. Whether grilled with sake and butter or eaten sashimi style, the flat mollusc is a delicacy.
But the desirability of umami-rich abalone means it's overfished in many countries, with some species even being listed as endangered. Down Under, it's a different story.
Here we have Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified fisheries and Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) certified farms going the extra mile to protect their produce through innovative farming techniques.
The MSC and ASC certification programs are recognised as having the world's most credible, science-based standards for the production of sustainable seafood.
So how can we ensure we're buying from certified producers?
"Always look for the MSC blue fish tick or ASC green label. These certifications ensure the seafood has been caught or produced in a sustainable and ethical way," explains Brad Adams, third-generation fisherman and founder of MSC certified Rare Foods Australia (RFA).
Gourmet Traveller speak to the abalone fishermen and farmers at the forefront of the sustainable seafood movement in Australia.
Rare Foods Australia: Sea ranching
Brad Adams is no stranger to the abalone game. He began work as a commercial abalone diver in the 1990s on his father's fishery in Augusta, Western Australia, where he witnessed the rapid decline of wild abalone stocks.
To counter the decline, Adams developed a technique known as sea ranching to produce a wild-catch abalone product, but in a more controlled environment.
"The method involves hatchery-bred juvenile abalone being carefully placed onto artificial reefs in the ocean and left to grow naturally for two to three years until they reach a marketable size," Adams says.
"It has proven sustainability benefits and the company is proud to be accredited by the Marine Stewardship Council as a sustainable fishery."
Now, RFA own a lease area that is the equivalent of 20 kilometres of reef, producing more than 20 per cent of the world's wild greenlip abalone.
Adams adds: "I love the innovation and seeing how it has benefitted the underwater environment. We have created an amazing, complex ecosystem that adds to the diversity of the marine park."
Yumbah Aquaculture: Hand harvesting
Tim Rudge grew up diving and hand-picking abalone straight from the ocean floor. Now, he leads four Yumbah abalone farms located across South Australia, Victoria and Tasmania, producing Australian tiger abalone and the world's largest supply of greenlip abalone.
"Yumbah abalone is hand-picked from our four ASC certified farms, nestled in isolated, pristine regions that were specifically picked for their remote locations and the quality of the surrounding oceans," Rudge says.
"Responsible farming means taking a wholistic approach to everything we do and recognising that the entire system is connected from ocean to finished product," Rudge says, explaining that Yumbah farms have a limited and strict control of the use of chemicals, ensuring the minimisation of any environmental impact.
"ASC green label certification of the Yumbah farms is a global stamp of recognition that Yumbah is upholding the highest standards of craftsmanship and care, not only for our abalone, but for our people, our communities and the environment," he adds.
Cooking with abalone
The best way to prepare versatile abalone? "With a light touch," says Rudge, though there's a difference between cooking with each species.
"Greenlip abalone — with its tender, delicate flesh — can be enjoyed sashimi, lightly fried, or steamed, while the plump and strong flesh of tiger abalone makes it the perfect ingredient for slow cooking or steaming.
"Lightly fried in olive oil, butter and garlic served with salt pepper and a generous squeeze of lemon is a quick and easy yet delicious way to eat this superfood."
As for Adams, his go-to greenlip abalone dish is thinly sliced sashimi served with soy and wasabi: "You can't beat it for texture and taste. If you're cooking at home, check out our website for recipes and preparation tips."