Bailer Shell

Livonia mamilla (False Bailer Shell)
Melo species (Melon Shell)
Other members of the Zidoninae subfamily (Bailer Shell)

Other names: Red bailer (false bailer), diadem volute, giant baler, heavy baler, Milton’s melon, southern bailer, umbilicate melon shell (melon shell), baler shell, black bailer, boat shell, common bailer, poor man’s abalone.

Family: Volutidae (volutes).


These large, smooth, oval, spiral-coiled shells are cream-coloured with orange-brown zigzag markings. They occur right around the Australian coast, and are harvested from the wild. Collectively they are known as bailer shells due to their use in some areas for bailing out boats. The false bailer shell, with its distinctive orange foot, is the most common, found on sand and mud to depths of 180m, it is harvested by trawling and trapping off the south-east coast of Australia, including Tasmania. A very similar, but less commonly seen, black-footed species is found along the NSW central and north coasts. Melon shells, also less commonly seen commercially, are found on and near reefs to depths of about 10m, their shells have several spikes on the end, which are absent in other bailer shells. Bailer shells lack an operculum, the protective flap found over the opening of many univalves.

Season: Available year round, though supply is limited.

Size and Weight: False bailer shells are commonly about 25cm long, though they can reach 30cm. ‘True’ bailer shells are slightly smaller, while melon shells are larger, commonly about 30cm and reaching up to 50cm.

Price: False bailer shell is high priced; others are medium priced.


Periwinkle, trochus, tulip shell, tun shell and other gastropods.

To Buy:

Sold whole. Look for brightly coloured, intact, lustrous shells, firm flesh, and a pleasant fresh sea smell.

To Store:

Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days, or extract the meat (see below) and freeze for up to 3 months below -18ºC.

To Cook:

Average yield is 20% excluding trimmings (33% including trimmings). Has a mild flavour, low oiliness and very firm flesh. Place the shell in a bag and crack all over with a kitchen mallet or back of a cleaver. Peel the shell away to extract the meat. Rub well with rock salt, massaging it in for a few minutes to remove the thick, slimy coating, wash well under cold running water. Cut off the dark intestines from the top of the meat, rub remaining meat with rock salt again and wash well under cold running water, using a small scrubbing brush if necessary to remove remaining slime. Cut off all of the leathery skin (and about 5mm of the flesh beneath it) from around the foot to expose the more tender flesh, cut off and discard any other tough parts of the meat. Split in half and trim off the base of the foot; all of these trimmings can be used to make stock. Cut out and discard the discoloured section on both halves where the mouth was. Slice meat into thin, wide strips through the more tender body and firmer foot. Like all seafood, it requires very little cooking, if overcooked it will be dry, rubbery and tasteless.

Cooking Methods:

Steam, poach, pan-fry, stir-fry, barbecue, braise, or eat raw (sashimi). The firm flesh holds together well in soups, curries and casseroles.

Goes well with:

Bean sprouts, chilli, garlic, ginger, green onions, lemongrass, lime, oyster sauce, sesame oil.




Meat is imported from Fiji and Vietnam.


Stir-Fried Bailer Shell with Garlic Shoots >
Cocktail Abalone with Asian Dressing >
Pan-Fried Abalone Steaks >