Abalone Wars: Deep into one of world’s most dangerous jobs

Premieres on Discovery Channel this January

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This January, Discovery Channel jumps into some of the planet’s most hostile waters and follows the men and women who risk their lives in one of the world’s most dangerous professions – the hunt for green and black abalone from the Australian ocean floor.

Shot in stunning high definition, ABALONE WARS ventures inside the high stakes game and for these brave few divers, there is a killing to be made; millions of dollars’ worth of abalone lay just below the surface, ripe for the picking, but can the divers make it out alive?

All-new three part series narrated by Mike Rowe of Discovery Channel’s Emmy-nominated series DIRTY JOBS, ABALONE WARS premieres every Monday at 10:00 p.m., starting January 21. Encores every Tuesday at 9:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m., Saturday at 1:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m., and Sunday at 9:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m.

The Southern Ocean, off the tip of South Australia is home to more sharks per square kilometre than almost anywhere else in the world. The risk of death by shark attack is very real here and many divers have personally experienced the heartache of losing their loved ones because of these attacks. However, that does not stop this group of fearless individuals who, season after season, battle against their nerves plunging to the depths and scouring the ocean floor for the much-prized green and black abalone.

On this never-before-seen series, follow several fiercely competitive crews who each set out into the hostile waters with the hopes of making enough money to support their families for the coming year. In Port Lincoln, there are only 32 quotas and this season, each crew is licensed to catch 7.5 tonnes of abalone. With abalone selling for USD20 to USD30 per piece, these divers know there is a killing to be made, but each day is a battle to survive the weather, predators and the inevitable race against the clock to secure their catch and return home safely.

Abalones live in some of the most dangerous waters in the ocean where the swells, cold currents and waves are at their fiercest. They rely on the currents to bring them drifting algae to eat. The most valuable abalones live in dangerous white water, forcing abalone divers to fish just metres from the perilous rocks where giant ocean waves pound. While abalone diving requires a quota and license to practice, illegal poachers pillage Australian waters, keeping the ocean police on constant guard. For every ten tonnes of Abalone caught, one tonne is gathered illegally. It is a huge threat to fishing quotas, and is part of the reason why abalone divers have to move further out into the ocean each year to seek their catch.

On ABALONE WARS, discover the tricks of the trade and the tools used to aid divers during their search for these highly valuable ear shells. The most vulnerable time for an abalone diver is during their descend to the ocean floor and return to the surface, as Great White Sharks attack from below. Learn how abalone divers design and construct their own cages to protect them from these predators and watch as divers race to the bottom for protection, surfacing as little as possible during their shifts to reduce the risk of shark attacks. While some divers work with a cage, most rely simply on the protection of a ‘shark shield’, an anti-shark device that sends out three-dimensional electrical wave forms and creates an unpleasant sensation that impacts the shark’s ‘Ampullae of Lorenzini’, the short range sensors which sharks use when feeding or searching for food. However, this is not 100 per cent effective and many attacks have occurred even when victims were wearing one.

Also on ABALONE WARS, join the ocean police to witness their daily fight to keep poachers out of the waters, and observe how an abalone diver deals not only with the physical demands of the trade but also the mental as they tame the fear born in their own minds to become a true Abalone diver. So what does it take to hit the jackpot? Will they strike it rich or end up as victims of their own greed? Dive in to the deep end and find out on the following episodes of ABALONE WARS.

EPISODE 1

The stage is set for the start of the USD35 million dollar South Australian abalone season. Introductions to the crews based out of Port Lincoln highlight the treacherous ocean conditions, unpredictable weather and the growing risk of shark attacks that plague their working lives. But there’s big money to be made for the quota owners and these hired crews if they can strike abalone. If they don’t – it can mean big losses and more days battling the dangerous conditions.

EPISODE 2

Winter winds and waves storming from the Southern Ocean have battered the South Australian coast for weeks, forcing frustrated abalone divers to weather the storms with the mundane world of home chores, hobbies, footy, music and the pub. A rare fine day sees the divers up with the dawn, to make the most of the opportunity to fill their quotas.

The abalone game has always been a man’s world, except for the Bichard sisters; Nicole and Amanda. They use the money earned shelling for their father Rex, to get them through accounting and architecture schools respectively.

At 73-years-old, Neil Williams is a legend in the abalone game. He still dives a quota and his hair-raising stories of narrow escapes and near death experiences are a caution to all rookie divers, only if they take his advice. Meanwhile, the boss’ son Jay, now shares the diving and the pay with legendary Dominic Henderson also known as “The Dominator” and his crewmate, Tony Custance also known as “Skin”! “The Dominator” feels the pressure on his pay packet and his young family. Worst still, it looks like poachers have ravaged one of their secret abalone beds.

EPISODE 3
In the world of the professional abalone diver, it’s an unceasing battle with the elements and as the winter cease-fire ends, the spring offensive begins. Howard Rodd’s, young sons are stepping up; Dene makes his first professional abalone dive, trained by his excitable older brother Neil. The very real risks that saw their father lose two crew members over his career are in the forefront of these young minds.

Further up the coast, the Craig boys, twins Tobias and Tyrone shell for big brother Ben, who is also recovering from the shock of a recent shark encounter. Desperate to make a better go of it, Dominic “the Dominator” has ruffled a few feathers by joining a new team with better prospects, but his engine blows up. With the pressure on to fill a giant order of live abalone in just a few days he borrows a boat once belonging to a fallen friend, and it’s a move that will make or break him.

Meanwhile shady characters connected to the world of organised crime are still illegally depleting the stocks of abalone and the local fisheries patrol officers continue their year-long war with unscrupulous abalone poachers.

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