The Beginning Growth of a Pearl Oyster-the Spat
For a truly vertical pearl farm, wild spat have to be ecologically collected from the surrounding waters in the South Seas. This is called natural spat collection. In the months of October and November, pearl oysters produce sperm and eggs in to a water column. It is here that they fertilize and form free swimming larvae.
Baby oysters swim around free and feed for the first 20 day cycle of their growth. At this point, they begin to look for a place to attach themselves and grow. Pearl farmers use "spat collectors". These are a threaded plastic cloth which are hung in a grid.
Young oysters live on these grids for about 15-18 months. There is masterful care taken to make sure the lines don't sink or are washed away. There is a specific crew to handle this. Environmentally concerned pearl farms take precautions to minimize any oil or fuel spills. No trash is allowed to be thrown in the oceans, and it is important to not have too many spat collectors in an area so that the young oysters have food and oxygen to grow.
Spat collections are placed outside of boating lanes and are submerged about 6 ft. below the surface and secured with floats.
Stay tuned for more on natural hatcheries and the next stages of an oyster's growth.