FROM HATCHERY TO NURSERY
Our process begins at our hatchery in Moss Landing where MAC is proud to be an industrial partner at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories Center for Aquaculture. The hatchery cycle begins when adult abalone are spawned, producing fertilized eggs. The tiny eggs hatch into microscopic swimming larvae which transition through several larval stages before they are ready to settle onto a hard surface and begin their lives as snails. At this point, the larvae are moved from the hatchery, which is indoors, to the nursery, which is outdoors.
The abalone larvae are settled in outdoor tanks supplied with flowing seawater and racks of fiberglass plates which provide lots of surface area for them to crawl around on. The tanks are carefully prepared by growing a thin film of diatoms which attracts the abalone, increasing the number that successfully settle, and also serves as a food source for them. The tiny abs will spend about eight months feeding on microalgae until they are large enough to eat macroalgae, or seaweeds. Separate tanks are dedicated to the production of dulse, a red seaweed, that supplements the diet of microalgae as the abalone continue to grow.
GROW OUT METHODS
The abalone spend between 10 and 15 months in the nursery before they are moved to our grow out units under the commercial wharf in Monterey. To be healthy and grow well, they must be large enough to feed on heartier alga like kelp and other seaweeds.
Depending on their growth rate and size at which they are harvested, the abs will spend between 3 and 7 years in our habitats under the wharf. During this time, they are fed exclusively on seaweeds, the natural diet of abalone. Giant kelp (Macrocystis pyrifera) constitutes the majority of the seaweed we feed, and it is hand harvested by our crew from beds which grow around the Monterey Peninsula. The habitats are pulled out of the water every week when they are inspected, checked for predators (starfish, crabs, and octopus), and fed. A tremendous amount of hand labor is invested in feeding and caring for the abalone during the years that they spend in our care. We are very grateful for the efforts of our dedicated crew!
A SUSTAINABLE AND TRULY DELECTABLE PRODUCT
Monterey Abalone Company’s very existence depends on a healthy marine environment. We need clean water and seaweed to produce a healthy, nutritious crop. We must be good stewards of the resources on which we depend!
Shellfish farming, a form of aquaculture, is a process that benefits the marine environment. The basic concept is that shellfish, whether abalone, mussels, oysters, etc. consume local plant production, whether in the form of macroalgae (in the case of abalone) or microalgae (in the case of filter feeders like mussels and oysters). These plants need nutrients to grow and carbon dioxide to breathe. Human activities result in excess nutrients entering the coastal marine environment which can result in harmful algae blooms and other phenomena. Macro and microalgae absorb these nutrients, and when shellfish feed on algae, the nutrients are incorporated into their tissues. When the shellfish are harvested, there is a net removal of nutrients from the marine environment resulting in a cleaner, healthier environment.
Shellfish farming is one of the most efficient forms of food production known to humankind in terms of the amount of food produced per acre. The carbon footprint of shellfish culture is significantly lower than that of terrestrial animal agriculture.
Farmed abalone has been listed as a “Best Choice” by Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Program.