How Long Can Abalone Live Out of Water? A Look at Their Survival Time

Abalone are mollusks that can only survive for a limited time out of water. But what determines their survival span, and how long exactly can they stay alive once removed from the ocean? In this article, we’ll examine the factors that affect how long abalone can live out of water and provide tips to maximize their freshness.

Abalone are large edible sea snails found clinging to rocky surfaces near ocean shores, Their characteristic spiral shells have a row of holes along the edges Abalone have a single muscular “foot” that grips rocks as they feed on algae,

There are around 100 abalone species worldwide. The main edible varieties include green, pink, red, black, and white abalone. Their tender foot muscle is a delicacy with a sweet, briny, almost nutty flavor.

Abalone can only survive out of water for a limited time before their gills dry out Let’s look at what determines their survival span once removed from the ocean

Factors That Influence Abalone Survival Time

Several key factors affect how long abalone will stay alive once out of the water

  • Body size – Larger abalone have more body mass and moisture retention so they survive longer than smaller abalone. Jumbo 8” specimens may last over 48 hours out of water.

  • Species – Some evidence suggests black and green abalone can survive slightly longer than red and pink varieties. Their physiology may differ.

  • Temperature – Colder temperatures slow abalone metabolism, preserving tissue moisture and extending survival. Keeping abalone cool greatly prolongs life.

  • Processing – Leaving abalone attached to the shell rather than shucking provides protection, adding hours to survival time.

  • Packaging – Keeping shucked abalone in sealed, moist packaging maintains humidity and keeps gills from drying out.

  • Oxygenation – Access to oxygen is essential for survival. Sealed packaging should contain pure oxygen to prevent suffocation.

With optimal handling, large abalone can survive 1-2 days out of water. Smaller specimens may only last 8-12 hours. Next, we’ll cover tips to maximize abalone survival time after catching.

Tips for Keeping Abalone Alive Out of Water

Use these best practices to prolong abalone survival once caught:

  • Leave abalone attached to the shell rather than immediately shucking them. The shell helps retain moisture.

  • Place abalone in a cooler, container, or fish bag and surround with ice packs. Keep them as cold as possible, ideally around 40°F.

  • If shucking abalone, wrap shucked meat in damp paper towels and keep chilled on ice. Don’t let meat dry out.

  • For long transport times over 8-12 hours, use moistened seaweed or oxygenated packaging to line containers.

  • Give abalone access to oxygen using a battery-powered aquarium pump and airline tubing with an airstone. Prevent suffocation.

  • Provide high humidity inside containers. Use moist paper towels atop ice packs to keep conditions damp.

  • Cull dead specimens which deteriorate quickly. Prioritize live abalone which tolerate handling better.

  • Once shucked, keep meat chilled and cook within 1-2 days max for best quality. Don’t freeze, as ice crystals damage meat.

Shipping Live Abalone

To ship abalone overnight or longer distances, specialized packaging is required:

  • Leave abalone in shells to retain moisture and protect the fragile meat. Only shuck upon arrival.

  • Pack abalone convex shell-side down in freezer gel packs to keep cold. Use layers of gel packs top and bottom.

  • Place small oxygen generators like those used for fish shipping inside the box. Continual oxygen circulation is vital.

  • Line box with seaweed, paper towels dampened with seawater, or purpose-made moist packing materials.

  • Insulate box well and use frozen gel packs to maintain around 40°F during transit.

  • Label box as “Live Shellfish” and send overnight express for fastest delivery.

  • Notify recipient to refrigerate box immediately upon arrival until abalone can be shucked and prepped.

With diligent cold storage and oxygenation, live abalone can be shipped across the country and remain alive for 1-2 days in transit.

Abalone Survival Times by Handling Method

To summarize, here are approximate abalone survival times under different handling conditions:

  • Attached to shell, refrigerated, and kept moist – Up to 48 hours

  • Shucked, sealed in oxygenated packaging – 24-36 hours

  • Shucked, in damp paper towels on ice – 18-24 hours

  • Shucked, left exposed to air at room temp – 8-12 hours

  • Frozen with no protective packaging – Tissue damage; not recommended

Proper handling is key to maximizing abalone life span out of water. Keep them cold, moist, and oxygenated for best results.

Signs Abalone Has Died

Look for these signs to determine if an abalone has expired:

  • Limp, watery, or mushy meat texture

  • Lack of muscle contraction when touched

  • Milky colored fluid leaking from meat

  • Pungent ammonia smell beginning to develop

  • Discoloration and breakdown of meat tissue

  • Lack of foot attachment to shells

  • Total loss of suction/grip when live abalone is handled

Once dead, bacteria will quickly multiply, so abalone should be cleaned and cooked promptly. Discard any specimens showing decay.

Enjoy Abalone at Its Best

Abalone have a very finite survival time once removed from the ocean. By quickly chilling, oxygenating, and keeping abalone moist, their fresh, sweet flavor and tender texture can be preserved for 1-2 days after catching. This allows leisurely preparation to enjoy abalone at its absolute best.

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