Home' Partners : Partners: Building resilience in the Pacific Islands Contents PARTNERS ISSUE TWO 2015
harvested nine of those so far, and earned F$7,000
(A$4,360). We still have 11 to harvest.
“ We’ve also bought 20 more lines, so we now
have 40 lines and we’re planning to deploy them
all in September this year.”
Yaroi village is ideally situated close to the
largest pearl farm in Fiji—Justin Hunter Pearls.
Owner Justin Hunter is one of three pearl farmers
in Fiji who target the international market with
high-quality pearls. All three farmers still face
a shortfall in oysters, so there is room for more
communities to get involved as spat suppliers. As
they become more experienced, the communities
can grow on the juvenile oysters and sell them
when they are larger and worth more.
TARGETING THE MARKET
The high level of technical expertise needed
to produce export-quality pearls and pearl
jewellery puts this activity out of reach for most
local communities, but there are some excellent
alternatives within the domestic market, in
particular those linked to tourism. The value chain
analysis found that in Fiji this market, including
jewellery and handicrafts made from lower-value
pearls, half-pearls and mother-of-pearl, could be
worth about F$10 million (A$6.2 million) a year.
As reported in the previous issue of Partners,
ACIAR and project partners are working with
communities, and especially women, to help
develop the skills needed to build and supply this
market with quality local products (see ‘A craft of
their own for Fijian women’, page 20 in Partners
Issue 1, 2015).
Professor Southgate believes that coastal
communities currently collecting spat can
increase their share of the profits from this
lucrative local market by learning to seed the
oysters and farming the pearls themselves.
Leading the way, a group of women from Raviravi
village on Vanua Levu’s north coast have set up
the first community pearl farm in Fiji, and are
learning the essential technical skills.
The easier-to-grow half-pearls offer even more
opportunities for communities, as demonstrated
in Tonga. While round-pearl production requires
particular expertise for pearl seeding that is
usually provided by a technician from overseas,
winged pearl oysters are easier to seed and local
people can produce high-quality half-pearls with
Furthermore, half-pearls can be produced in
6 to 9 months (compared with 18 to 24 months
for round pearls), so income can be generated
relatively quickly—and multiple half-pearls
(four or five) can be made in one oyster at the
same time compared with one round pearl per
black-lip oyster. This is the basis of the industry in
Tonga, and half-pearl farming has recently been
introduced to Fiji through the PARDI project.
A woman from Namarai village on Viti Levu,
Fiji, collects spat.
Taniela Nayasi (right) harvesting spat at
Yaroi village, Vanua Levu, Fiji.
Hauling in collector lines in Savusavu Bay, Fiji.
Locally made pearl jewellery on sale at the Tonga
Despite the recent market focus, the science
of pearl production has not been forgotten.
“Fijian pearls are known for their extraordinary
range of colours, and that is at least partly down
to the genetics of the black-lip oysters. It’s
important that, as we develop the industry, we
understand and manage the genetic diversity of
the oysters around the islands of Fiji, so that we
don’t lose this fundamental characteristic,” explains
This is the rationale behind the locations trialled
for spat collection in the current work, which are
spread around Fiji’s main islands, facilitating studies
on the oysters’ genetics and relationships with, for
example, ocean currents. Until better understood,
it is prudent to keep the oyster populations
distinct, which also favours the development of
small community pearl farms in these locations.
Spreading out the pearl farms also mitigates
potential weather impacts on the industry.
“I think we could eventually have at least
one or two round-pearl farms on each of the
main islands of Fiji, providing great livelihood
opportunities while keeping the ‘colours of Fiji’
alive,” concludes Professor Southgate. n
ACIAR PROJECT: PRA/2010/01, Supporting
development of the cultured pearl industries
in Fiji and Tonga
MORE INFORMATION: Professor Paul Southgate,
University of the Sunshine Coast,
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