Sustainable Pearls: Fostering Marine Conservation and Livelihoods in the Pacific.
Status of initiative: Completed
Description/achievement of initiative

Cultured pearl farming and surrounding services have become a vital source of income and significantly contributed to economic development in a large number of remote coastal communities in French Polynesia and the Cook Islands. More recently, Fiji and Micronesia have attempted to emulate these sucesses. Producing a beautiful pearl is not reserved to large-scale entrepreneurs, a great number of small-scale and artisanal stakeholders also benefit from the pearl oyster resource in different ways. Marine cultured pearl farming does not harm the environment if adequate management practices are implemented, and a healthy ecosystem is a prerequisite to producing beautiful pearls. Cultured pearl farming can be regarded as a sustainability element in improving not only coastal livelihoods, but also fostering environmental conservation in biodiversity hotspot regions in the Pacific. These synergies can prosper further if the resource continues to be managed responsibly and value chains are designed to support these positive environmental and socio-economic impacts. The main objective of this partnership between researchers, members of the pearl trade and Pacific pearl farmers is to support and strengthen the benefits of pearl farming for communities and the marine environment. Objectives include: - Demonstrate that there is a market for sustainably produced pearls from niche Pacific producers. - Engage with stakeholders along the supply chain to spur demand for sustainably produced pearls. - Raise awareness with consumers about the need for economic development and marine conservation in pearling areas. - Provide opportunities for pearl farmers to upgrade, so they can capture a greater share of the pearl value chain. - Provide sustainable economic development for communities surrounding pearl farms

Implementation methodologies

Each of the corporate partners (pearl production companies and jewelry companies) will sign on to principles of action related to sustainable pearl farming which were developed through a consultative process held in Hong Kong in June 2014. A biodiversity monitoring program which we developed for fish species around pearl farms through a Waitt Foundation grant with the National Geographic Society will subsequently be employed to keep track of the progress being made. A separate effort to market the program to consumers will also be undertaken to highlight to role pearls can play as a catalyst for sustainable economic development in island economies.

Arrangements for Capacity-Building and Technology Transfer

In Micronesia, pearl farming is reducing the dependency on artisanal reef fishing, encouraging coral reef protection and raising environmental awareness (Cartier and Ali, 2012). In Mexico, pearl farming has led to the repopulation of wild oysters and farms are acting as no-fishery reserves. In French Polynesia certain farmers have developed new ecologically sound techniques to clean their pearl oysters, thereby increasing the abundance of reef fish and acting as Marine Protected Areas. Conserving the tropical ecosystems in which pearl oysters thrive is a priority if global biodiversity loss is to be reduced. Pearls reflect the health of our oceans. From the research phase (2011-2014) of our project we have studied a number of pearl farms that have managed to upgrade their activities. This is knowledge that can be transferred to other pearl farms. We want to aid the partner pearl farms in further upgrading their activities, helping them up the value chain, to capture more value and be thereby able to further invest in conservation and livelihoods. Examples include: - Manufacturing of basic jewellery that can be sold to tourists (e.g. Micronesia)- Training of further locals in pearl farming (e.g. Micronesia) and training of locals as operating technicians (e.g. French Polynesia, Indonesia)- Ecotourism activities and farm visits (e.g. Fiji, French Polynesia)- Raising environmental awareness locally and preferring local employment to mechanised oyster cleaning techniques (e.g. Fiji)- Training local marine biologists and working with local jewellery designers (e.g. Micronesia, Fiji, Philippines).

Coordination mechanisms/governance structure

We have developed a core group of pearl producers and conservation organizations who will constitute the board of governors for the partnership. The organization will also aim to leverage existing coordination mechanisms which the partners have with the National Geographic Society's Explorers' program and the Nature Conservancy to provide a coordination mechanism.


Sustainable Pearls, Dr. Saleem Ali (University of Queensland), Dr. Laurent Cartier (University of Basel), Julie Nash (University of Vermont), Dr. Satoshi Murao (AIST), J. Hunter Fiji Pearls, Micronesian Pearls, College of Micronesia, Kamoka Pearls (French Polynesia).
Market analysis of consumer preferences for pearls based on conservation attributes
Sustainable Pearls principles adoption by all major pearl producers
Monitoring system adopted and housed in major conservation organization
Pearls and development program incorporated into small-island states development donor targets
Resources devoted to implementation
Financing (in USD)
200 USD
Financing (in USD)
50 USD
In-kind contribution
Time of PI, Saleem Ali
Staff / Technical expertise
University of Queensland (Australia), University of Vermont (USA) and University of Basel (Switzerland)
Staff / Technical expertise
University of Queensland (Australia), University of Vermont (USA) and University of Basel (Switzerland)
Progress reports
Cut off date each year: 1 July
This initiative fulfils the SMART criteria.
Date of completion: July 2016
Operating in countries
Contact information/focal point(s)
Saleem Ali, s.ali3@uq.edu.au

Copyright 2017 United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs