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PERLEMOEN ( Haliotis midae )

Also called Venus Ear, Perly, Sea Ear, Abalone, Muttonfish, Ormer or Awabi. There are 56 recognised species worldwide and 5 species are endemic to South Africa i.e., they only occur here and nowhere else.
Named from the Dutch Paarlemoer (mother of pearl) referring to the iridescent inside of the shell
Perlemoen grow to 23cm in size, are good to eat and considered an aphrodisiac in the east.
It is Illegal to collect in South Africa because of the poaching problem. Anyone collecting Perlemoen is now a criminal.


Juvenile Perlemoen are protected by spiny sea urchins, these are the pumpkin shells that we have also cast. They are the bodyguards of the baby Perlemoen and protect them from octopus, starfish and musselcracker with their spines. Many juvenile Perlemoen shells that wash up on the beach have a small hole on the top and this is where a starfish has drilled in and eaten the whole internal contents.
Abalone species live in temperate seas all over the world. They are vegetarian eating red and green seaweeds. They move very slowly, so attach themselves to boulders in shallow rocky areas, and this makes them fairly easy to capture with googles and snorkel, and some poachers use scuba gear as well on offshore reefs.

The big ones have a formidable shell and suck down onto the rock if disturbed and are very difficult to remove. They occur from Port St John in the East to Saldanha bay in the West.
Juvenile Perlemoen protected by sea urchins, they are eaten on this coast by starfish, octopus and musselcracker


The shells are ear shaped spirals with neat, small holes through which water escapes after aerating the gills.
Shell constructed of nacre which is highly iridescent in some species, and the blues greens pinks and turquoise colours attract shell collectors.
The shell of the abalone is exceptionally strong and is made of microscopic calcium carbonate tiles stacked like bricks. Between the layers of tiles is a sticky protein. When the abalone shell is struck, the tiles slide instead of shattering and the protein stretches to absorb the energy of the blow. Material scientists around the world are studying this tiled structure for insight into stronger ceramic products such as body armour. The dust created by grinding and cutting abalone shell is dangerous and can cause fibrosis.


Perlemoen Farming
Because of the high demand for abalone generally, aquaculture is practised on 12 species in 16 different countries
By weight about one third edible meat (The muscular foot) one third intestine and one
third shell

Perlemoen is eaten in many ways, from a local perlemoen “potjie” stewed in a black pot on the fire, to sliced restaurant perlemoen, and with all manner of noodles and rice. It is rumored to have Aphrodisiac properties, and so is much sought after in the East.

Most abalone shells can be used to make inlay jewellery because of the beautiful mother-of-pearl inside the shell. They are used particularly on guitar fretboards.


Perlemoen, Haliotis midae is threatened in South Africa. The Perlemoen breed fairly easily, but because they are so regularly stripped from reefs, when the wild populations reach critical levels, then they will struggle to recover naturally
Removing any Perlemoen in South Africa is now illegal, this is an effort to stop poaching, but affects the local population as well.
The poaching problem originated from a quota system which was corrupted and many licences were taken from local people, who then poached to earn a living. Orgasnised crime got involved, and now perlemoen is traded for Crystal Meth. The drugs are then sold locally.
So in South Africa we have Perlemoen which no South African may legally touch. The Perlemoen are then stolen and the people of South Africa get a drug problem in return.
We all need to make a contribution, the world will be poorer without a Perlemoen.
Click here for more info on Perlemoen poaching in South Africa

The Cape Sea Urchin or Pumpkin Shell

Parechinus angulosus, the Cape urchin, is a sea urchin in the family Parechinidae endemic to southern Africa.
They are famous among surfers and beach goers for their spines which regularly spike feet. The spines are most often purple, but can also be green, red, or cream. They occur in vast numbers on shallow reefs, where they graze on kelp and algal debris

When they die, the spines fall off and they become a shell collectors great find.
In 1994 in South Africa, the numbers of sea urchins declined dramatically, and so did the Perlemoen numbers, because there weren’t nearly as many sea urchin protecting the juvenile Perlemoen.
Numbers are back up again and almost any rocky outcrop or tidal pool will be littered with Sea Urchins.


Silver Shell Jewellery offers Sterling Silver Jewellery with a conservation purpose. Not only do we strive to provide beautiful shell jewellery, but with every piece sold a portion goes to protecting our endangered species like the perlemoen against poachers.
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