Growing Pearls in the Gulf of California

Growing Pearls in the Gulf of California

As part of our visit to the city of Guaymas, Sonora, we had the opportunity to visit the only pearl oyster farm in North America (Perlas Del Mar de Cortez). The farm is located on the awesomely-named Bacochibampo Bay in the Gulf of California (the name apparently means “Bay of Sea-Snakes” in the language of the native Yaqui). This region has a long history of pearl exploitation — pearls were one of the major reasons why the Spanish began to colonize the area in the 1500s.

The site of the operation is a former university, where our professor Xavier received his bachelor’s degree and first met one of the pearl farm’s founders, Enrique Arizmende. Enrique and his business partners started the farm as an extension of their master’s research (proving to several skeptics in our group that good things do sometimes come from master’s projects). The farm became private when the university closed in 2002.

If this sounds like a great idea to you, here’s what you’ll need to do:

Step 1: Find a good location.

Bacochibampo Bay is a shallow, protected bay with good flows that is ideal for suspension aquaculture. In this type of culture, the pearl oysters are placed in nets and hung about 1.5 meters from the surface, where they are able to feed on as much plankton as possible.

Step 2: Collect pearl oyster larvae.

Read all 7 steps and see photos of growing pearls in Gulf of California here.

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