Black Pearl Industry Developed in Marshall Islands

Black Pearl Industry Developed in Marshall Islands

Researchers in the Marshall Islands are looking at ways to develop the country's pearl industry.

Black pearls have proved a lucrative export for other countries in the region - particularly French Polynesia - and scientists are hoping to repeat the success in the Marshalls.

Climate change is likely to impact the fragile environments that pearl growing requires.. and the Marshall Islands is no exception.

Outrigger Canoe on a Palm-Fringed Beach, Marshall Islands

Outrigger Canoe on a Palm-Fringed Beach, Marshall Islands

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DR HAWS: When we started working in the Marshall Islands many years ago, it did seem to have some favourable indications that it could be successful there.

COUTTS: And what are they?

DR HAWS: Well actually, pearl farming in the Marshall Islands and in Micronesia in general got discovered by the Japanese before the Second World War and it showed a lot of promise. They have all the natural conditions that are favourable for pearl farming, very clean water, a lot of large calm lagoons, a willing workforce, so it looks like in the 90s when people really got this started again in the Marshalls and Micronesia as well.

COUTTS: Well, at what stage are you? Have you produced pearls yet that you can sell?

DR HAWS: Yes actually the Marshall Islands have been producing pearls since the 90s. It's been a bit of an up and down history in the Marshalls. One of the problems we have in the Micronesian islands in general is that there's not a very high abundance of wild pearl oysters and therefore it's very difficult to collect the young juveniles, the pearl oyster spat in large numbers as they do in French Polynesia and in the Cook Islands, and naturally the basis for most of the places you will see thriving pearl industries is this ability to collect wild spat. So in the Marshall Islands what people had to do is basically go to hatchery technology and produce the pearl oysters in hatcheries.

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