Some of the Ecological Problems in Pearl Farming
As if pearl farming wasn't difficult as it is, there are the added problems of an ecological disaster that can devastate a pearl farm. Climate is incredibly important to pearl farming's delicate balance.
This is just one pearl farmer's story.
There is a current story in This Is Pearl Magazine (You might not get it.) about Alexander Collins and his tiny pearl farm on Takaroa in the South Pacific. In 2014-2015, an ecological event happened that led to an invasion of microplankton into the lagoon. This invasion upended the natural balance in the atoll of Takaroa. The microplankton killed all of the second graft oyster (oysters that have been implanted with a second nuclei after successfully producing and surviving the first implantation), 60% of the first graft oysters, and all of the spat (baby oysters). Pearl quality and color were also compromised, because the oysters were sick. Many of the other fish and mollusks died, as well. The one fish that thrived was the disastrous blow fish that because of a strong beak ate oysters and other mollusks voraciously. They became bigger and stronger. As if the blowfish were not enough, deep sea sharks invaded and made spear fishing dangerous.
The cycles have changed in that area and the oysters are learnign to live with it and adapt. It will take time to normalize. They have not collected oysters in their lagoon since 2011.
With the new oysters growing the shell are much smaller. There was a conscious decision to try to nucleate these smaller oysters with smaller nuclei and create smaller Tahitian style pearls. Alex is known for his smaller Tahitian pearls, but it has been difficult during the pandemic. The harvest for 2021-2022 is looking very sad.
Pearl farming is dealing with nature and in an instant, everything can be blown away. It is a difficult culture and that is why to appreciate the lustrous beauties as little miracles.