Blackfoot pāua

Public Summary

Principal investigator: Hamish Howard,​​ General Manager NewFish
Industry partners: WholeFish Limited trading as NewFish
High-Value Nutrition funding: $48,348


Reinstating pāua’s brilliance

Pāua is a true taonga and widely treasured in Aotearoa New Zealand. Despite this, the vast majority of New Zealand’s commercial pāua harvest is canned for export after being bleached to make the unique mollusc look like abalone species found elsewhere in the world. As a result, New Zealand’s Blackfoot Pāua are seen as inferior and of lesser value. Furthermore, the by-products of this process, the skirt and hua (gonads and viscera) of the pāua, are both under-valued and under-utilised.

NewFish® is on a mission to flip this paradigm and has partnered with the Riddet Institute, MacDonald & Associates, PāuaCo and with funding from the High Value Nutrition National Science Challenge to advance our knowledge of the native New Zealand Blackfoot Pāua (Haliotis iris) and reinstate Pāua’s pride of place.

Abalone is highly regarded in many Asian cultures, for both its nutritional properties and its medicinal and health-promoting effects. In addition, all parts of the abalone are highly valued. For example, abalone shells are used in Chinese medicine and abalone viscera (organs) are used in Korea to make Geut-jeot, a form of the traditional fermented seafood dish called Jeotgal.

Aotearoa has a real opportunity to create highly nutritious and valuable seafood products that celebrate our culinary excellence and unique seafood species, such as New Zealand’s endemic Blackfoot Pāua. NewFish are currently developing a range of ultra-premium seafood products for international export, such as the world-first NewFish Pāua Saucisson—a naturally fermented French-style salami. These products embrace the “whole fish” or full-utilisation philosophy, by including all components of the kaimoana used in their creation.

— Hamish Howard, NewFish General Manager and Co-founder. 


With globally renowned chef Vaughan Mabee at the helm of NewFish’s culinary development, the products are guaranteed to taste delicious. However, despite being a well-established, longstanding and (generally) highly profitable industry, our scientific understanding of the nutritional and health-promoting properties of Blackfoot Pāua is limited.

Validating the digestive health benefits of Blackfoot Pāua

NewFish has embarked on this research to validate the known benefits of Blackfoot Pāua and will do so by identifying relevant bioactive and health-promoting compounds within the pāua meat, skirt and hua.

This project will collate knowledge of Blackfoot Pāua from a variety of sources and consider fermented Blackfoot Pāua as an aid to digestive health. It is expected that this approach will create further opportunities for New Zealand’s Pāua Industry to add value to products developed in line with cultural and environmental best practices.  

The research for this project will mostly take place at the Riddet Institute in Palmerston North, a world-leading research centre in food and related sciences. Grant MacDonald, a Nelson-based food scientist and seafood expert, will work on the project with internationally recognised leaders in nutrition, digestive health and the compositional analysis of novel foods, such as Professor Warren McNabb from the Riddet Institute.

This research aligns with the High-Value Nutrition National Science Challenge’s mission to “grow the science excellence and knowledge Aotearoa New Zealand needs to create and deliver food to the world that people choose to stay healthy and well”. 

Research team

Hamish Howard

General Manager NewFish

Professor Warren McNabb

Warren McNabb is a Professor of Nutritional Sciences in the Riddet Institute.

The Riddet Institute is one of New Zealand’s Centres of Research Excellence (CoRE) which is hosted by Massey University.

Warren’s research interests include nutrition for health, sustainable nutrition, human-microbiome interactions, and physiology and metabolism.

Dr Grant MacDonald

Food scientist/technician B.Tech. (Food Tech.), M.Tech. (Hons), PhD, FNZIFST
Grant is a consulting Food Scientist/Food Technologist with over 40 years of experience in the food and natural product industries, including research (mechanisms for improving protein stability) to product and process development.

Grant has specific expertise in seafood processing, freezing and chilling, freeze-drying and processing of natural products.