Milan: Properly managed pearl farms offer real opportunities to individuals and communities living on small islands in the South Pacific and Indian Oceans, both from an economic perspective and in terms of protecting the marine environment, said Tiffany Stevens, President of CIBJO’s Ethics Commission during the 2019 Global Multi-Stakeholder SIDS Partnership Dialogue, which was held at the United Nations in New York on July 10. Indeed, she added, for a cultured pearl farm to become an economically sustainable asset, it is essential that it also be operated in an environmentally sustainable manner.
Ms. Stevens, who additionally is President and CEO of the Jewelers Vigilance Committee, the New York-based organisation that provides legal advice, education and self-regulation services to jewellers and other members of the American jewellery industry, was speaking at the gathering on behalf of CIBJO President Gaetano Cavalieri.
“Properly managed, a pearl farm can continue producing quality products indefinitely, serving as a resource for national development through the taxes and royalties it provides, and at the local level as a source of gainful employment and community development, both directly and through the secondary economies its nurtures,” Ms. Stevens stated.
What has been learned over the years, she added, is that when it comes to cultured pearls environmental, social and economic sustainability are inexorably linked.
“Over the course of its lifespan, the oysters of the most commonly used species are able to produce three cultured pearls,” she explained. “The quality of these pearls will be a direct result of the conditions of the water in which the oysters are kept, and the length of the gestation period, during which nacre forms around the irritant nucleus that has been placed in the animal. If the environment is pristine, and the pearl is provided adequate time to mature under water, the chances of obtaining a higher-value product will increase substantially.”
But, she noted, the cost of maintaining an optimal pearl-farming environment can be substantial, meaning that it is essential that the pearl farmers receive an adequate share of the revenues they produce, in order to encourage them to operate appropriately.
Ms. Stevens pointed to a project that Dr. Cavalieri was involved in several years ago, sponsored by the Government of French Polynesia, to reverse what had become a downward spiral in the average quality of pearls being produced by the country. What was discovered was that for farmers working under economic distress there was little incentive to invest in producing a better product. They attempted to generate more income by cutting corners in the management of the marine environment, and by reducing the gestation period of the pearls. This meant a continuing reduction in the quality of the product and the environment.
The lessons learned from the Polynesian experience were applied when CIBJO was invited to consult with the Government of Fiji and the country’s Fiji Pearl Farmers’ Association in the creation of a national plan to increase the size of the island’s pearl sector, while optimising the benefits provided to the country and its people. “The plan that was drawn up called for a community-based, pearl farming industry to enhance the effectiveness of locally-managed marine areas, integrate coastal management and land and sea management programmes, while also creating meaningful employment and income-generating opportunities for indigenous communities,” Ms. Steven said.
Speaking to the gathering, the Ambassador of Fiji also referred to CIBJO’s support of sustainable pearl farming, insisting that all partnerships matter and no small-island developing states should be left behind.