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Tasmania’s Stories

Levy plan for nature's abalone

Edition 188_Lisson

Close involvement in the Chinese market and a levy-funded marketing effort to promote the virtues of wild abalone are keys to the future of a charismatic Tasmanian industry.

Until the start of this century, Australia was the dominant supplier of abalone globally, with about 50 per cent of market share.

Tasmania contributed about half of Australia's total catch, but its investors, business operators, skippers, divers and deckhands have experienced an unprecedented reduction in their market share over just 17 years.

Due to the rapid growth of abalone aquaculture worldwide, Australian wild-harvest abalone now represents less than 3 per cent of total global supply.

"This trend makes it vitally important for us to differentiate wild-caught abalone and to position it as a super-premium product," the Hobart-based Chairman of Abalone Council Australia Ltd, Dean Lisson, said.

"Our wild abalone is completely natural, it's healthy, delicious and sustainably harvested."

Mr Lisson, who is also Chief Executive of the Tasmanian Abalone Council, is driving the concept of a national levy to lift the wild-caught abalone brand.

As a national exercise, such a levy would be administered by the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources in Canberra.

But it is fundamentally important to the $300 million-a-year Tasmanian industry.

"Tasmania is the biggest contributor to the national industry and will be the biggest beneficiary of the promotion that a levy will drive," Mr Lisson said.

"The State produces 50 per cent of the nation's wild abalone and is home to a good percentage of Australia's 850 industry stakeholders who will ultimately decide whether the levy goes ahead or not."

Mr Lisson is encouraged by the fact that 80 per cent of Australia’s abalone exporters (measured by value and volume of sales) have joined the AWA®(Australian Wild Abalone) program since it was launched in China seven years ago.

In keeping with the importance of the Chinese market, AWA® was unveiled in Shanghai in 2010.

"Importers in China, Hong Kong, Singapore and Japan are encouraging us to commence AWA® in-market promotion," Mr Lisson said.

"Whenever and wherever we talk about the AWA® Program with importers, wholesalers, F&B managers and executive chefs, the most frequently asked question is 'why wasn’t this done years ago?'

"A very considerable amount of time, effort and resources have been devoted to this initiative which is obviously fundamentally important for our industry's future."

Mr Lisson said "fantastic support" was flowing from all sectors of the supply chain, including exporters, importers, hotels, restaurants and food retailers.

A small team has conducted in-market research regarding attitudes to Australian wild abalone in China and Hong Kong since 2010. More recently, this activity has been extended to Singapore and Japan.

The research creates a knowledge base for the AWA® Program.

"Our decreasing market share makes it more important than ever for us to stand out from the crowd and ensure our future," Mr Lisson said.

"We need to work together to effectively differentiate our product and to promote and market it in key international markets.

"We have been travelling around Australia since October 2016 to brief industry stakeholders in each of the five abalone-producing States on the levy proposal."

Meanwhile, abalone exporter Ralph’s Tasmanian Seafood completed a merger in August with New Zealander firm PauaCo, creating Australasia’s largest abalone processor and exporter.

PauaCo has been a leading force in canned abalone (known by its Maori name, pāua, in New Zealand). The company supplies retail and catering markets in South East Asia.

Ralph's has complementary expertise in the supply of live, wild-caught abalone to China.

The Chairman of PauaCo, David Hogg, said: "At the very heart of this deal is better utilisation of a wild resource and growth in the value of that resource for all of the stakeholders involved.”

The combined entity is the world's largest supplier of wild abalone.

The consolidation should lead to greater distribution access for live pāua and better utilisation of Australian abalone not able to be sold into live markets.

Formed in 2012, PauaCo is the result of a consolidation of a number of smaller fishing and processing businesses. It is privately owned by fishers and independent shareholders.

Ralph’s, on the shores of North West Bay in southern Tasmania, was founded in 1996 and operates a modern fleet of "mother boats" supported by temperature-controlled land vehicles.

Abalone consumption has at least a 40,000-year history in Tasmania.

It was an important protein source for the first Tasmanians and later helped hungry settlers through the lean early years of the Van Diemen's Land colony.

Recreational diving remains popular and most long-established Tasmanian families have their favourite "ab" recipes.

Tasmania's professional divers harvest more than 1,500 tonnes of live weight abalone a year, operating within a science-based quota system.

More than 95 per cent is exported, principally, to China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan and Taiwan.

A new price record of $85 a kilo was reached in China earlier this year.

Most of the annual catch is exported in live form, with the balance processed into canned, dried, frozen or vacuum-packed formats.

Export revenue of about $100 million a year generates an estimated $300 million of associated economic activity.

The industry pays more than $30 million in wages a year for harvesting (divers and deck hands), processing (factory workers, truck drivers and administrators), marketing and exporting (managers and consultants) and service industries (mechanics, technicians, welders and boilermakers).

Industry players have a long history of providing investment capital to other areas of Tasmanian commerce.

This has benefitted enterprises in agriculture, including viticulture and wine making, retail, wholesale, property development, tourism and aquaculture.

Image courtesy of Dean Lisson

3 October 2017, Edition 188

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Facts about Tasmania


Tasmania is the southernmost state of Australia, located at latitude 40° south and longitude 144° east and separated from the continent by Bass Strait. It is a group of 334 islands, with the main island being 315 km (180 miles) from west to east and 286 km (175 miles) north to south.


Tasmanians are resourceful and innovative people, committed to a continually expanding export sector. In 2012-13, international exports from the state totalled $3.04 billion. USA, China, Taiwan, India, Japan and other Asian countries account for the bulk of exports, with goods and services also exported to Europe and many other regions.


Tasmania is similar in size to the Republic of Ireland or Sri Lanka. The Tasmanian islands have a combined coastline of more than 3,000 km.


The main island has a land area of 62,409 sq km (24,096 sq miles) and the minor islands, taken together, total only 6 per cent of the main island's land area. The biggest islands are Flinders (1,374 sq km/539 sq miles), King, Cape Barren, Bruny and Macquarie Islands.


About 250km (150 miles) separates Tasmania’s main island from continental Australia. The Kent Group of Islands, one of the most northerly parts of the state, is only 55km (34 miles) from the coast of the Australian continent.


Twice named 'Best Temperate Island in the World' by international travel magazine Conde Nast Traveler, Tasmania has a mild, temperate maritime climate, with four distinct seasons.


In summer (December to February) the average maximum temperature is 21° Celsius (70° Fahrenheit). In winter (June to August) the average maximum is 12° C (52° F) and the average minimum is 4° C (40° F). Snow often falls in the highlands, but is rarely experienced in more settled areas.

Annual Rainfall

Tasmania’s west coast is one of the wettest places in the world, but the eastern part of the State lives in a rain-shadow. Hobart, the second-driest capital city in Australia, receives about half as much rain as Sydney.

Annual Rainfall

Annual rainfall in the west is 2,400 mm (95 inches), but hardy locals insist there is no such thing as bad weather, only inadequate clothing. If you travel 120 km east to Hobart, you experience a much drier average of 626 mm (24 inches) a year.


The 512,875-strong community spreads itself across the land; less urbanised than the population of any other Australian state. Hobart, the capital city, is home to more than 212,000 people.

Capital City

Hobart nestles at the foot of Mt Wellington (1,270 m / 4,000 ft) and overlooks the Derwent Estuary, where pods of dolphins and migrating whales are sometimes seen from nearby beaches. Surrounded by thickly forested rolling hills, the city is home to the state parliament and the main campus of the University of Tasmania.

Capital City

Its historic centre features Georgian and Regency buildings from colonial times. Hobart is home port for coastal fishing boats, Antarctic expeditions and vessels that fish the Southern Ocean.

Land Formation

Mountain ranges in the south-west date back 1,000 million years. Ancient sediments were deeply buried, folded and heated under enormous pressure to form schists and glistening white quartzites.

Land Formation

In the south-west and central highlands, dolerite caps many mountains, including Precipitous Bluff and Tasmania's highest peak, Mt Ossa (1617 m / 5300 ft). More than 42 per cent of Tasmania is World Heritage Area, national park and marine or forest reserves.


Vegetation is diverse, from alpine heathlands and tall open eucalypt forests to areas of temperate rainforests and moorlands, known as buttongrass plains. Many plants are unique to Tasmania and the ancestors of some species grew on the ancient super-continent, Gondwana, before it broke up 50 million years ago.


Unique native conifers include slow-growing Huon pines, with one specimen on Mt Read estimated to be up to 10,000 years old. Lomatia tasmanica, commonly known as King's holly, is a self-cloning shrub that may well be the oldest living organism on earth. It was discovered in 1937.


Tasmania is the last refuge of several mammals that once roamed the Australian continent. It is the only place to see a Tasmanian devil or eastern quoll (native cat) in the wild and is the best place to see the spotted-tailed quoll (tiger cat), all carnivorous marsupials.


The eastern bettong and the Tasmanian pademelon, both now extinct on the Australian continent, may also be observed.


The Tasmanian tiger, or thylacine, was Australia's largest surviving carnivorous marsupial and is a modern day mystery. The last documented thylacine died in captivity in 1936 and although the animal is considered extinct, unsubstantiated sightings persist.

History and Heritage

Aboriginal people have lived in Tasmania for about 35,000 years, since well before the last Ice Age. They were isolated from the Australian continent about 12,000 years ago, when the seas rose to flood low coastal plains and form Bass Strait.

History and Heritage

Descendants of the original people are part of modern Tasmania's predominantly Anglo-Celtic population.

History and Heritage

Tasmania was originally named Van Dieman’s Land by the Dutch explorer Abel Janszoon Tasman in 1642. The island was settled by the British as a penal colony in 1803 and the original name was associated with the convict era. It was changed to Tasmania when convict transportation stopped in 1853.


A resourceful island culture has generated leading-edge niche industries, from production of high-speed catamaran ferries and marine equipment to lightning-protection technology.


Tasmanians produce winches and windlasses for some of the world's biggest ocean-going pleasure craft; large-scale inflatable evacuation systems and provide specialist outfit-accommodation services to the marine industry.


The Wooden Boat Centre at Shipwrights Point has re-established the skills and traditions of another age and attracts students from around the world.


Tasmania is a world leader in natural turf systems for major sporting arenas and in areas of mining technology and environmental management. Its aquaculture industry has developed ground-breaking fish-feeding technology and new packaging.


Tasmanians sell communications equipment to many navies and their world-class fine timber designers and craftsmen take orders internationally for furniture made from distinctive local timber.


The state is a natural larder with clean air, unpolluted water and rich soils inviting the production of 100 varieties of specialty cheeses, as well as other dairy products, mouth-watering rock lobsters, oysters, scallops and abalone, Atlantic salmon, beef, premium beers, leatherwood honey, mineral waters, fine chocolates, fresh berry fruits, apples and crisp vegetables.


Tasmania is a producer of award-winning cool-climate wines, beers, ciders and whiskies. Other export products include essential oils such as lavender, pharmaceutical products and premium wool sought after in Europe and Asia. Hobart is a vital gateway to the Antarctic and a centre for Southern Ocean and polar research.


The industries in Tasmania which made the greatest contribution to the state's gross product in 2010-11 in volume terms were: Manufacturing (9.4%), Health care and social assistance (8.2%), Financial and insurance services (7.2%), Ownership of dwellings and Agriculture, forestry and fishing (each 7.1%).

Getting to Tasmania

Travel is easy, whether by air from Sydney or Melbourne, or by sea, with daily sailings of the twin ferries Spirit of Tasmania 1 and 2 each way between Melbourne and Devonport throughout the year.

This site has been produced by the Brand Tasmania Council © 2014

Brand Tasmania

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