AskDefine | Define paua

User Contributed Dictionary



paua (plural pauas or paua)
  1. A large, edible abalone, Haliotis iris, native to New Zealand, whose shell is used to make jewelry.
  2. The shell of this mollusc.
  3. A fish hook made from this shell.

Extensive Definition

Paua or pāua is the Māori name given to three species of large edible sea snails, marine gastropod molluscs which belong to the family Haliotidae (genus Haliotis), known in the USA as abalone and in the UK as Ormer shells.
There are three species of New Zealand paua;
  • Paua - Haliotis iris
Maori and common names: Blackfoot Paua
  • Queen paua- Haliotis australis
Maori and common names: Silver Paua, Yellow Foot Paua, Hihiwa & Karariwha
  • Virgin paua - Haliotis virginea
New Zealand's most well known paua species is Haliotis iris. It is also the most common species, growing up to 18 cm in length.


These three species of haliotid are endemic to New Zealand coastal waters.


Paua are commonly found in shallow coastal waters along rocky shorelines in depths of 1 to 15 m.

Life habits

These large sea snails survive the strong tidal surges by clinging to rocks using their large muscular foot. They feed on seaweed.

Shell description

The shell of the paua is oval and the exterior is often covered with greyish incrustations. In contrast the interior of a Paua is an iridescent swirl of intense green, blue, purple, and sometimes pink colours.

Human use

The paua is iconic in New Zealand: its black muscular foot is considered a delicacy, and the shell is frequently used in jewelry.
To Māori, paua are recognised taonga, or treasure, esteemed both as kai moana (seafood) and as a valued resource for traditional and contemporary arts and crafts. Paua are frequently used to represent the eyes in Māori carvings and traditionally are associated with the stars, or whetu the eyes of ancestors that gaze down from the night sky.
Paua are gathered recreationally and commercially but strict catch limits are set for both - for recreational fishers this is 10 paua per person, per day. The minimum legal size for caught paua is 125 mm for Haliotis iris and 80 mm for Haliotis australis. Paua can only be caught by free diving. It is illegal to dive for paua using scuba equipment.

Other names

Paua is also called "Sea Opal".


  • Powell A W B, New Zealand Mollusca, William Collins Publishers Ltd, Auckland, New Zealand 1979 ISBN 0-00-216906-1


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