Found only in the frigid shallow waters off New Zealand live sea snails with beautiful iridescence purple, blue, pink, and green shells which the Maori have named Paua (pronounced "pah-wah"). Due to their beauty Paua shells have been valued by the Maori for centuries as taonga (treasure). The Maori use these shells to make beautiful jewelry; which includes necklaces, pendants, and rings. Below is a list of facts about Paua including information on exactly where they are found, why the Maori value them, and how they find them.
Facts about Paua
The Maori value Paua not only for their amazing shells but also for their meat which is a traditional delicacy of the Maori.
The ancient Maori would gather Paua from the shallow waters along the shore and sometimes dive into deeper water a little further out to find them.
Paua refers to three species of marine mollusk of the family Haliotidae, genus Haliotis.
In Australia and the United States Paua are known as abalone.
The most common and popular species of Paua is Haliotis iris. This species can grow up to 7.1 inches long (18 cm).
Paua generally live along the shoreline in water that is 1 - 10 meters (3.3 feet - 32.8 feet) deep.
These marine animals eat seaweed.
Many different types of fish, crabs, octopuses, and lobsters feed on Paua.
Asia is a huge importer of Paua meat.
Large Paua farms have popped up all over New Zealand.
Facts about Paua Shells
Paua shells have a basically oval shape.
Part of the beauty of this shell is that its colors change as you look at it from different angles.
Paua shells from colder waters are generally more colorful due to growing at a slower rate. This makes them more valuable.
Paua shells were widely used by the ancient Maori in the eyes of their sculptures. They especially valued shells with red tints due to it representation as the red eyes of a
Paua shells are common souvenirs taken home by visitors to New Zealand.
Conclusion - Paua Shells
Paua meat and shells are in such high demand that New Zealand has enacted several regulations to protect the depletion of the population. This includes catch quotas and limitations on the sizes that can be kept. In fact, when diving for Paua divers are not allowed to wear scuba gear they must free dive therefore greatly reducing the amount they can catch. Unfortunately, there is a black market for paua and many poachers catch way more than their quota. There have been cases of poachers who greatly exceeded their quotas receiving jail sentences.