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Old August 24th, 2009, 05:01 PM   #1
hkskyline
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Abalone (鮑魚)

Abalone thrive in cold ocean waters
26 March 2009
South China Morning Post



Abalone thrive in cold ocean waters. Some of the most famous abalone-producing countries are South Africa, Chile, where the texture is more like cheese than chewy, New Zealand - which grows some of the best and where they can be as large as the head of a badminton racquet - and Australia, where the abalone are either green- or black-lipped.

Japanese abalone are in a league of their own, especially the sun-dried version. Chinese chefs rehydrate the dried abalone then braise it in a flavourful stock made of chicken, pork bones and Chinese ham. The savouriness of the stock sits happily with the richness of the abalone, giving it a more diverse tone. The resistant texture of the braised abalone is necessary as a flavour carrier: if the abalone were too soft or melt-in-the-mouth, it wouldn't be sufficient to carry the intense, almost cloying richness. The best wine to pair with braised abalone is red. Whites are overwhelmed by the rich stock, braising process and succulent sea taste. The red wine should have a strong fruit definition, good natural acidity, resolved tannins and some supporting oak. A highly textured wine will caress the palate and the abalone's stubborn texture.

Casa Lapostolle Clos Apalta 2006, Chile

This is an amazing wine, perhaps the only one of its kind where the generally light carmenere grape - merlot's younger brother - is elevated to this level of rich concentration and definition. The silky texture, grainy and soft tannins, as well as the lightly charred oak are perfect partners with the abalone's braising stock. The wine's rich fruit definition extends the sweetness of the abalone.

Available for HK$780 from Moet Hennessy Diageo (tel: 2976 1888) Amisfield Pinot Noir 2006, Central Otago, New Zealand

Eating a braised abalone can be difficult: mouthful after mouthful of pure, intense, sweet succulence can overwhelm the tastebuds. This tasty pinot noir from the beautiful central Otago region has bright red fruits to hang onto the abalone sweetness, and plenty of refreshing acidityto bring freshness to anover-indulged palate.

Available for HK$360 from Altaya (tel: 2523 1945)

Sadie Family Columella 2004, Swartland, South AfricaThis lovely, velvety wine is a perfect match with braised abalone. It has a lot of depth and savoury tones, linking the wine closely with the abalone and its braising stock. The rich wine, which is made from old vines, also provides a supporting platform for the powerful abalone.

Available for HK$730 from Altaya (tel: 2523 1945)
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Old August 25th, 2009, 09:03 AM   #2
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Old February 7th, 2012, 02:36 PM   #3
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Disaster strikes abalone lovers
The Standard
Monday, March 14, 2011

Panic is now gripping some people in Hong Kong. And it's because supply of their favorite abalone may dwindle.

Traders are warning that prices will rise from HK$9,500 per catty to HK$12,000 after Fukushima prefecture, a major production source of abalone, was badly hit by Friday's disaster.

"People are rushing in for fear of surging prices," On Kee Dry Seafood manager director Richard Pon Kuen-fai said. "We've sold 40 catty of Japanese abalone in just two hours in our Yau Ma Tei branch, much more than our daily average of five to six catty."

Sushi restaurants are also seeking to find new suppliers.

Itamae Sushi, which runs 26 branches in Hong Kong, said Fukushima is also a major supplier for most of its fish products.

"We are already talking to suppliers from Kyushu since supplies from Fukushima have been disrupted," general manager Mak Kin-shing said. "Concerning our customers' health, we will keep an eye on the radiation leakage in Japan."
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Old March 29th, 2014, 07:49 AM   #4
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FEATURE - Asia's abalone fever feared wiping out the gourmet mollusc in South Africa

HOUT BAY, South Africa, March 26 (Reuters) - In broad daylight, groups of poachers hidden among the rocks of a South African marine conservation area wade slowly into the icy, shark-infested waters of the Atlantic Ocean in search of 'white gold'.

Foot soldiers of a global criminal network stretching from the southernmost tip of Africa to the other side of the globe, they are scouring the rocks for abalone to meet insatiable demand from Asia for the gourmet mollusc.

The hunt is driving the species to the edge of extinction, but fears of being caught - either by coastguards or great white sharks - are relegated to the back of poachers' minds by the glittering prizes on offer.

"We didn't get much now but we will go out again tonight with the boat," said veteran poacher Stephan, emerging warily from the water as fisheries' inspectors in speed boats could be seen whizzing about looking for boats further out to sea.

Destined for trendy restaurants in Hong Kong and China, abalone - dubbed "white gold" after its pearly flesh - can fetch up to 4,500 rand ($420) a kg on the South African black market, and nearly three times that in Asia, experts say.

Also found in abundance in cold waters off New Zealand, Australia, Japan and the west coast of the United States, abalone from South Africa is considered to be among the best.

The divers may only get 300 rand per kg but in impoverished coastal villages such as Hout Bay, blighted by sky-high unemployment, that is still good money.

Caught on both sides of South Africa's coastline, abalone, or "perlemoen" as it is called locally, is sold for cash or exchanged for methamphetamines, helping fuel South Africa's already serious drug problem.

"Tonight we expect a good haul of between 50 and 60 kg, maybe 100 if we're lucky," Stephan said, shivering after two hours underwater in a battered wetsuit. Like others interviewed for this story, he asked to be identified only by his first name.

Moving from their iron and wood shacks on the steep slopes of Hout Bay's Hangberg, 20 km (13 miles) east of Cape Town, the poachers trek over a snake-infested ridge, carrying heavy scuba-diving gear before reaching their destination at Seal Island.

With mobile phones sealed in condoms to keep out the water, they scan the ocean for patrol vessels and sharks before sliding into the deep.

Only a limited number of fisheries are licensed to harvest a highly circumscribed amount of abalone in South Africa, and the penalties for breaking the law are harsh.

Under no illusion about the dangers of jail or how depleted stocks could hurt fishing villages, another poacher, Leon, echoes the line from almost all the fishermen: it is simply a question of survival.

"We are just ordinary fishermen struggling to survive, to put food in the pot, to pay school fees, to make a living," he said, sitting among piles of empty abalone shells strewn across the beach.

"FAST AND FURIOUS"

On land the silky abalone are "shucked" from their shells before being dried in sheds or suburban garages. They can also be frozen prior to being smuggled out of the country in shipping containers.

Customs officers have intercepted consignments concealed as duvet covers, plastic pellets or sardines. Some shipments are organised by notorious Chinese 'Triad' gangsters.

"Triads do play a role, but in our experience it is mainly wealthy Asian businessmen who hide illegal activities behind legitimate businesses," said Lise Potgieter, a member of the South African police's elite Hawks detective unit.

One of the alleged kingpins, a Chinese national named Ran Wei, had a successful South African crayfish-exporting business before skipping the country in 2010 when associates - including a lawyer and police officers - were nabbed.

An Interpol arrest warrant is out for Wei, the principal suspect in a case being described as the biggest of its kind in South Africa's history.

Better crime intelligence and a dollop of luck, such as finding a discarded pie receipt in a Porsche Cayenne, has helped authorities close in on previously untouchable syndicate bosses.

In the case of the pie receipt, officers were able to identify a bakery in Hermanus - a poaching hot-spot - whose video footage helped identify a top get-away driver, nicknamed "Fast and Furious" because of his ability to evade capture.

Police estimate that one syndicate will have up to 30 members, from divers to carriers and buyers. More than 100 suspects have been arrested over the past three years.

Those held face charges of racketeering, money laundering and poaching, offences that carry jail terms of up to 25 years. For the first time, foreign assets such as companies are also being targeted, investigators say.

"We are cutting off the head of the snake, but there are many snakes in this dirty business," Potgieter told Reuters.

The scale of the plunder is mind-boggling.

In one case, a syndicate poached 55 tons in five months, storing the abalone at a disused chicken battery along South Africa's west coast. The premises were raided after a tip-off to police who caught three suspects.

Another group slipped through 10 shipping containers of contraband before authorities intercepted two more en route to Hong Kong. The contents of one of the seized containers were estimated at $3.5 million, police said.

EXTINCTION THREAT

Abalone is mainly fished commercially in Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, Oman and South Africa, where 300 commercial licence holders can take no more than 150 tons a year between them.

However, wildlife trade monitoring group TRAFFIC estimates the illegal 2012 harvest at 1,700 tons - way more than the local population of the mollusc, which takes nearly a decade to reach maturity, can support.

Government officials say the situation is so desperate they may have to impose a blanket ban on all abalone fishing - both recreational and commercial - to stave off looming extinction.

"We have reached commercial collapse already and if we continue on this path the abalone could become extinct in the wild soon," said Bernard Liedemann, a senior fisheries official involved in the fight against poaching since the 1990s. ($1 = 10.7042 South African rand)
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Old February 19th, 2015, 01:20 PM   #5
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Australian seafood gets wings
Bloomberg Excerpt
16 February 2015

In shark-infested waters off the Australian island of Tasmania, Dean Lisson spends five hours a day diving for abalone.

Dodging the sharks is his first challenge. Getting the catch alive to hungry Chinese diners is the next.

Live sea snails that cost A$40 ($31) a kilogram in Australia change hands for A$60 a kilo in Hong Kong, said Lisson. The chewy flesh is a prized ingredient in traditional Chinese cuisine. Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd, Singapore Airlines Ltd and Qantas Airways Ltd are filling up their luggage holds carrying seafood on the 8,000 kilometer journey.

"We want to get it to the market in the best possible condition," says Lisson. "The live product is at the premium end: you've got to look after it."

Australia sends about A$1.6 billion of food overseas by plane each year, making it the country's biggest airborne export after gold and medicine. The trade in abalone and rock lobster alone was valued at about A$761 million in the 12 months ended June, according to government data - up about 31 percent from the A$581 million total three years earlier. Nearly 90 percent of the country's seafood is exported by air.

Exports to China of the two shellfish are worth more to Australia than those of wine or dairy products, according to the Abalone Council, an industry group. They'll benefit further from a free-trade deal signed in November that will cut China's tariffs from 15 percent to zero by 2018.

The agreement "will open up the market for us", Nigel Chynoweth, Australia cargo manager at Cathay Pacific, says, allowing the carrier to supply smaller cities in western and northeastern China from its Hong Kong hub.

Cathay currently carries as much as 20 tons per flight of lobsters from Perth airport and charges four to five times more to ship seafood than it does for fruit and vegetables, he says. The export growth has been driven by growing Chinese wealth and changing consumer tastes, as well as improvements in the airborne supply chain, he adds.

"The Chinese population is becoming more worldly in terms of appreciation for this product," Chynoweth said, referring to lobster. "It's not just in the high-end restaurants."
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