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Sustainable Pearls

Before pearl farming, pearls could only be found in the wild. Thousands of oysters needed to be opened to find just a few pearls, and for centuries, the world’s pearl oysters and mussels were fished in large quantities. This led to the over-exploitation of oyster and mussel stocks.

One such example was the pearl rush that happened around the Mississippi river during the 19th century. When pearls were found in the Upper Mississippi River, it led to a treasure hunt by anybody who wanted to make a quick buck. Millions of mussels were killed in the process until finally there were almost none left. Oysters weren’t valuable only for the pearls but also for the shells which were used to make buttons.
In the early 20th century, researchers discovered a way to produce cultured pearls which ended the large-scale fishing of wild pearls.

The Earth’s water bodies – especially coastal areas – are vulnerable due to climate change, pollution, over-fishing, and the destruction of coral and coastal habitat from unregulated coastal development.

Pearl farming may be the answer to the biodiversity threats our oceans and rivers face. Studies found that where healthy farming practices are employed, there are more fish species, which help maintain biodiversity and also provide nutrients to the oysters. The fish eat encrusted organisms that accumulate in the shells and small fish can hide from their predators between the shells in the oyster cages.

Pearl farming usually has a positive impact on the local economy, too. Pearl farming provides for more job opportunities, so residents don’t need to rely only on fishing as an income, which reduces the risk of over-fishing.

A pearl farmer benefits from maintaining a thriving ecosystem. The more unspoiled the environment, the healthier the oysters and the higher the likelihood of harvesting high-quality pearls. High-quality pearls mean higher profits.