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Thousands flock to WA coast for abalone season opening

An hour of chaos descended on Perth beaches this morning as abalone season kicked off with a bang. And a thud. And a crash.

Abalone fishing may be the only water activity where swimming ability and appropriate attire are optional, and many of the hundreds of people dashing into the shallows at Mettam’s Pool collected bruises and cuts at almost the same rate as the edible molluscs.

While more experienced fishers – easily discernible by their choice of bathers or wetsuits rather than jeans – collected their 15 abalone bag limit in a matter of minutes, others spent the full hour from 7am slipping and slithering all over the reef in search of the highly prized delicacy.

A helicopter circled overhead, patrol boats and jet skis idled beyond the break and Surf Life Savers watched on from the shore but calm conditions and relatively manageable swell meant they were rarely required to spring into action.

Surf Life Saving WA’s dedicated abalone patrol was only required to perform two rescues and two preventative actions across the metropolitan area.

As of this afternoon, nine people had been fined $200 for exceeding the bag limit with an additional two copping $1000 “high-tier” fines for attempting to make off with catches well in excess of their quota.

A further 33 people were issued warnings and one person is facing a potential Fisheries prosecution for giving officers a false name.

Screwdriver in one hand and bag of abalone in the other, Eric Siah was among the first to emerge from the water.

“I’ve been doing this for 10 years. My wife is Japanese and she prepares them sashimi style, or stewed with rice,” he said.

A Fisheries officer explains the rules to some first time abalone catchers at Mettam’s Pool in North Beach.A Fisheries officer explains the rules to some first time abalone catchers at Mettam’s Pool in North Beach.
Camera IconA Fisheries officer explains the rules to some first time abalone catchers at Mettam’s Pool in North Beach.Picture: Daniel Wilkins

Wendy Wen, of Chinese descent, explained that abalone was a raging favourite in her homeland but it was exorbitantly expensive and mostly farmed rather than caught in the wild.

“The abalone here in Perth tastes much better,” she said.

“Most people make them into a soup but we like to cut the abalone into small pieces, boil them for 30 seconds and then dip them into a sauce made from seasonal herbs and chilli.”

Carolyn Pavlenko watched on from the beach as her husband Matt dutifully collected one of the couple’s Christmas favourites, which she said could easily top $100 a kilo if purchased from a fishmonger.

“Cut razor thin, battered and then lightly fried on each side they just melt in your mouth,” she said.

People fish for abalone on the first day of this season at Mettams Pool in North Beach.People fish for abalone on the first day of this season at Mettams Pool in North Beach.
Camera IconPeople fish for abalone on the first day of this season at Mettams Pool in North Beach.Picture: Daniel Wilkins

Last year, to improve safety for recreational fishers after four drownings in five years, the abalone season was restructured to four one-hour session throughout summer.

Those keen to partake of madness must have a valid abalone licence and get to the beach between 7am and 8am on any or all of the three remaining days: January 12, February 2 and February 16.

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