Oct 23, 2013

Pearl Culture in Mauritius

A three-day workshop on marine pearl culture organised by the Mauritius Oceanography Institute (MOI) opened this morning at La Cannelle, Domaine Les Pailles. Around 60 participants from the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development, the Ministry of Fisheries, MOI, University of Mauritius, Mauritius Research Council, Maurice Ile Durable, National Coast Guard, Sotravic and Ferme Marine de Mahebourg, amongst others, are attending.

Mr Shane Hurdowar and Mr Satyam Bhoyroo of the Faculty of Agriculture attended the workshop. A Chinese expert, Professor Xie Longwei has initiated Mauritian biologists to the technique of grafting which requires according to him 6 months of practice to master the overlay of a small ball in acre in the heart of Pearl oysters after a surgical incision. Watch video here
Mauritius: Training for the grafting of pearl oysters
The resource persons comprise a team of four Chinese experts from the Third Institute of Oceanology–State Oceanic Administration (TIOSOA).  They will make presentations on several topics, namely: pearl oyster biology: development, aquaculture and utilisation; how to set up a pearl oyster hatchery; pearl oyster breeding; diet microalgae culture for pearl oyster; and pearl oyster aquaculture technique.
This intensive and comprehensive workshop will also deal with infrastructure facilities needed for a hatchery, controlled maturation and spawning, larval rearing, larval feeding, pearl oyster grafting, farm management and pearl processing.  Demonstration and seeding sessions are scheduled to be held at the MOI farm site at the Albion Fisheries Research Centre. It is the first time that grafting of Mauritian oysters will take place so they may produce pearls in the country.
This workshop aims to create an opportunity for technology transfer, training and support for the local aquaculture industry. It will also review the present state of pearl oysters farming as well as the transfer of technology that will help the MOI jumpstart its pearl oyster grafting efforts.  The training workshop will also help to extend the technical know-how to the fishing community.
In his address, Professor Xie Longwei from TIOSOA said that the objective of his visit is to discuss and exchange information about pearl oyster cultivation while helping to improve the industry in Mauritius. He pointed out that although the types of oysters in China and Mauritius are different, the technology of pearl cultivation is similar. He expressed his confidence that the cooperation between the MOI and TIOSOA in pearl oyster cultivation will bear fruits and that he would like to see success in this new endeavour.
For his part, the Officer-in-Charge of the MOI, Dr Daniel Marie, recalled that the workshop represents a unique opportunity to strengthen bilateral relations between the Republic of Mauritius and the People’s Republic of China.  He stated that China has mastered all types of marine and aquaculture technology and products, adding that academic and applied research has a fundamental role to play in the prosperity of a nation. As regards pearl culture in Mauritius, Dr Marie pointed out that the MOI has undertaken a lot of research and much  work has been carried out since the project was launched in 2007. 
Pearl production in Mauritius
The Mauritius Oceanography Institute has been undertaking research on various aspects of marine living resources for the development of our country's marine fisheries, in line with the Government Programme of 2012 - 2015 of transforming the Island into an Ocean State.  Under this programme, several  investigations were taken up on the culture of pearl oyster, especially during the past couple of years, and considerable progress has been achieved.  
Pearl production is a thriving business for coastal communities. Prior to establishing and operating a pearl oyster hatchery, the correct biological conditions must be present to allow pearl oysters to grow well and produce high quality pearls. Through a feasibility study, it is possible to determine if the right conditions for growing pearl oysters are available.
Except for the highly skilled procedure of grafting, pearl culture requires simple farm structures, and more importantly, no artificial feeds. Production of high quality pearls is only possible under certain conditions, including a suitable farm site. Several varieties of pearl oysters are used for pearl culture, of which Pinctadamargaritifera (black lip pearl oyster) and Pinctada maculata which are present in the Mauritian waters and can be a potential species to be used in local farms.
Pearls are formed naturally when the oyster is irritated by the presence of a foreign particle in its body. This is usually a small piece of rock or a grain of sand. To get rid of the irritant, the oyster lays down a layer of the shiny, iridescent nacre around the particle to form the pearl.

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