Monday, June 5, 2017

A Bit About Raising Oysters for Pearls in Polynesia

One of our Board members is in the jewelry industry. She is learning more about pearls. She provided this information about growing the oysters. 

Pearl farms in French Polynesia don’t operate hatcheries, so the collection of wild shell is of paramount importance. Spat are collected by placing objects, such as dark plastic mesh, to lines a few feet below the water’s surface. As spat float by on the current, the baby mollusks attach themselves to the object using their byssus (foot).
Spat collectors with thousands of shells attached
After six months, the spat collectors are taken to the surface, and the baby mollusks are removed. A single collector might host 15,000 baby shells. They are placed into special baskets and hung from growing platforms at depths  of up to eight meters.
Three black-lipped shells at various stages of growth
When the shells are nearly adults, they undergo their first operation—one that is unique to pearling operations that utilize black lips. They are pulled from the water, and a small hole is drilled through the shells. There is no danger to the animal during this operation as the piercing is just outside the hinge. A nylon rope is then inserted through this hole and tied. This process is repeated, resulting in a chain, or chaplet, of ten to twenty pearl mollusks. The chaplets are returned to the platform for the final grow-out of the young shells.

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