Culturing Abalone Pearls in Victoria, Australia

Culturing Abalone Pearls in Victoria, Australia

It was a pearler of a business idea.

So great, it had never been seen in Victoria.

For about 30 years Gerry Menke had been diving the seas off Victoria, particularly around the eastern tip at Mallacoota, as an abalone diver.

And as lucrative as the industry is, one day he hit on an altogether sparklier concept: abalone pearls.

Unlike their oyster cousins, creating abalone pearl is far trickier, so tricky there's only a small industry in New Zealand, a couple dabbling in it in Tasmania and no one in Victoria trying it - until Gerry.

"Natural abalone pearls are quite rare - about one in 900,000 are found," Gerry says.

"I'd been to Broome to see their oyster pearls and I'd read a few articles on farming abalone pearl. Then, in 1997, we were visiting Mary's (his wife) parents in New Zealand and decided to drop by an abalone pearl business there.

"There was no secret to it, I thought it was a good idea to value-add and so the following year I obtained an experimental permit, designed and made cages and started experimenting. I haven't stopped since."

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