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How Australia Sustainably Manages the World’s Last Wild Commercial Fishery of Pearl Oysters

How Australia Sustainably Manages the World’s Last Wild Commercial Fishery of Pearl Oysters
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Terry Hunter is a cultural tour information at Cygnet Bay Pearl Farm. Being an extractive and in depth type of farming, pearl oyster aquaculture is one of the most environmentally sustainable industries. Credit score: Neena Bhandari/IPS

Australia’s distant north-western Kimberley coast, the place the Nice Sandy Desert meets the sapphire waters of the Indian Ocean, is house to the big Pinctada maxima or silver-lipped pearl oyster shells that produce the best and highly-prized Australian South Sea Pearls.

Australia is the solely nation in the world that makes use of wild oyster shares. To make sure its sustainability, the pearling business operates on a government-regulated quota system that units a most quantity of wild inventory pearl oysters that may be caught annually from the Eighty Mile Seashore, south of Broome in the state of Western Australia. These wild pearl oyster beds symbolize the final wild business fishery for Pinctada maxima oysters in the world.

There are presently 15 wild inventory pearl oyster licence holders, however the majority of licences are owned by Paspaley subsidiaries. As Paspaley Group of Corporations’ Government Director, Peter Bracher tells IPS, “Our wild pearl oyster quota is hand-collected by our divers. This is an environmentally friendly and sustainable form of commercial fishing that causes no damage to the seabed and produces no wasteful by-catch. Elsewhere in the natural habitat of Pinctada maxima, which includes much of the Indian and Pacific Oceans, the wild oyster populations have been depleted by overfishing.”

In recent times, the Complete Allowable Catch (TAC) has been set between 600,000 and 700,000 pearl oysters. The 2016 TAC was 612,510 pearl oysters and the complete quota that might be seeded was roughly 907,670 (557,670 wild inventory and 350,000 hatchery-produced), in response to the Western Australia Division of Main Industries and Regional Improvement’s 2016-17 Standing Studies of the Fisheries and Aquatic Assets.

Australian pearling corporations have been acutely aware of the want to guard the oysters’ habitat as there’s a robust co-relation between Kimberley’s pristine surroundings and the manufacturing of high-quality pearls.

“The nutrient-rich Kimberley waters, in which our pearls are farmed, are our most valuable asset and monitoring their condition forms an integral part of our operations and management. We have opened our infrastructure and expertise to the academic world and established the Kimberley Marine Research Station to encourage independent marine research and to help bridge the indigenous cultural knowledge with scientific knowledge, which we believe will help in our attempt to ensure our production practices are sustainable,” says James Brown, the third-generation proprietor and managing director of Cygnet Bay Pearls, the first all-Australian owned and operated cultured pearling firm.

Being an extractive and in depth type of farming, pearl oyster aquaculture is one of the most environmentally sustainable industries. Oysters are voracious filter feeders drawing their vitamin from micro-organisms like algae from the water column and in so doing successfully clear the water.

Professor Dean Jerry, Deputy Director at James Prepare dinner College’s (JCU) Centre for Sustainable Tropical Fisheries and Aquaculture tells IPS, “Pearl farms also act as fish attraction devices (FAD). The oyster lines, buoys and panel nets hung in the ocean provide habitat and structure for larger and small fish. Often this is the only form of structure in the ocean where farms are providing habitat for marine life to live.”

However Pinctada maxima oysters are very delicate to air pollution and environmental modifications. “Global warming and increased carbon dioxide levels in the ocean will make it harder for the pearl oysters to quickly and efficiently lay down calcium carbonate for the mother of pearl that makes the nacre for the pearl. This means that oysters will have to spend more energy for growth, leaving less for immune functioning thereby increasing their exposure risks of disease as rises in water temperatures speed up microbial and parasitic lifecycles,” Jerry provides.

Since 2006, Australian corporations have battled Oyster Oedema illness and Juvenile Oyster Mortality Syndrome, which impacts oysters earlier than they’re seeded with a pearl and should end in 90-95 % mortality. Scientists haven’t but been capable of finding a causative agent for the two illnesses, which have virtually halved the value of the business.

To make the business extra sustainable, Jerry says, “We need to adopt technology to make oyster breeding programs more productive and disease tolerant. Pearl oysters will really benefit from selective breeding, which will help them grow faster and therefore get to a point where they can be seeded at a younger age and ultimately produce the pearl quicker.”

It takes two years for an oyster to develop the place it may be seeded and one other two years for when the pearl is harvested. Throughout these 4 years, the oysters should be commonly cleaned. “It can cost up to AUD1 an oyster each time, which is a huge financial cost to businesses. If we can get to a stage of harvesting the pearl from a younger oyster, say three years, it will not only increase financial sustainability, but also environmentally sustainability,” Jerry provides.

Mom of Pearl at Cygnet Bay. Australia is the solely nation in the world that makes use of wild oyster shares. To make sure its sustainability, the pearling business operates on a government-regulated quota system that units a most quantity of wild inventory pearl oysters that may be caught annually. Credit score: Neena Bhandari/IPS

Hatchery-bred pearl oysters at the moment are a serious half of pearl manufacturing. Three oysters are required to create one pearl. A nucleus is inserted from one oyster into one other wholesome oyster with a small piece of mantle tissue chosen from a donor oyster. With time, the mantle tissue that produces nacre (the secretion referred to as mother-of-pearl) grows utterly round the nucleus, forming a pearl sac through which the pearl grows.

An oyster could be reseeded as much as 3 times, and, when it reaches the finish of its reproductive life, it’s harvested for the mom of pearl shell utilized in jewelry and inlay for furnishings, and pearl meat.

Last yr, the Australian South Sea pearling business of Western Australia and the Northern Territory, have been licensed sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC).

Chief Government of Pearl Producers Affiliation, Aaron Irving tells IPS, “The MSC Standard is an independent, internationally accredited science-based standard, against which the environmental sustainability management of a wild marine resource fishery is rigorously assessed. MSC ecolabel assists discerning customers in making an ethical choice.”

Australia is the world’s first pearl fishery to be licensed towards the MSC’s normal for sustainable fishing. MSC Oceania Program Director Anne Gabriel says, “It’s an exciting development and opens the door to engage a whole new world of consumers on the important issue of fisheries sustainability. We are looking forward to seeing the MSC ecolabel on wild pearls in the jewellery and fashion markets of the world, as well as on mother of pearl and pearl meat products. By buying sustainable pearl products, consumers can also play their part in maintaining healthy ocean ecosystems and securing the future of our fish stocks.”

Paspaley, Australia’s main pearling firm, exports over 95 % of its manufacturing to wholesalers and jewelry producers round the world. Bracher tells IPS, “We sell to many of the world’s leading brands for which ethical supply chains are a high priority. Although we cannot communicate directly with their end-customers, our environmental credentials are an important differentiator as a supplier.”

Cygnet Bay Pearls makes use of tourism as a method of educating shoppers about the making of the Australian South Sea Pearl and the setting it thrives on. Brown tells IPS, “Our new business model welcomes general public to the farm. Our Giant Tides tour shows visitors the unique Kimberley marine environment, which is now regarded as having the largest tropical tides by volume of water and also the fastest tidal currents in the world. This is what powers our pearl farm and allows Australians to grow the finest pearls in the world.”

Terry Hunter, a fourth era Bardi man, is a cultural tour information on the Cygnet Bay Pearl farm. He tells IPS, “Cygnet Bay has been my playground. My father and grandfather worked here. The Browns have always recognised, acknowledged and respected Indigenous knowledge. When I hold a mother of pearl oyster shell, I feel alive – connected through ceremony and ancestors.”

Historically, the indigenous Aboriginal Bardi and Jawi tribes collected the mom of pearl to make a riji, which boys put on as a pubic masking at the time of initiation or formal admission to maturity. The engravings on the shell symbolise their connection to earth and water. Now, the riji is worn for ceremonial functions.

Bart Pigram, an indigenous Yawuru man, labored as a pearl shell cleaner and now owns and operates Narlijia Cultural Excursions and shares the distinctive pearling historical past of Broome with guests. He tells IPS, “The environment’s health is integral to not only sustaining the pearling industry, but also the local indigenous communities.”

The pearling business employs about 800 individuals. The worth of the pearl aquaculture sector was about AUD78.four million for the 2015-16 monetary yr, in accordance with the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Useful resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) Australian fisheries and aquaculture statistics 2016 report.

  • The primary international Sustainable Blue Financial system Convention can be held in Nairobi, Kenya from Nov. 26 to 28 and is being co-hosted with Canada and Japan. Over four,000 individuals from round the world are coming collectively to discover ways to construct a blue financial system.


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