Australian pearl industry wins world-first certification

Members of the Australian Pearl Producers Association are the first pearl fisheries in the world to achieve the coveted MSC standard.

By Caitlin Wright 25/09/2017

Wearing Australian pearls not only looks good but can also make you feel good with news that the industry has achieved a first-of-its-kind environmental win.

Members of the Australian Pearl Producers Association including Paspaley Pearls, Cygnet Bay Pearls and Clipper Farm are the first pearl fisheries in the world to achieve Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification.

Guy Leyland, the MSC Project Coordinator for the Western Australia Fishing Industry Council, says it such recognition is highly sought-after.

“More and more consumers are looking for sustainability credentials from their favourite brands, whether it’s clothing, food or jewellery. MSC allows producers to display their sustainability credentials through third party certification,” he says.

The pearl industry is located primarily off Eighty Mile Beach in Western Australia and has been in production for 150 years.

Producers such as Paspaley are one of few that dive for wild Pinctada maxima or silver lipped pearl oysters. They’re hand-collected by divers and have strict quotas and size limits, then are seeded to allow for the oyster to grow the pearl in farms along the coastline.

Paspaley Pearling Company Executive Director Peter Bracher says: “Environmental responsibility has already been important to Paspaley. The preservation of the marine habitat of Australia’s wild pearl oysters is essential to our operations.”

The fishery was assessed on three demonstrable principles: sustainable stock; impact on the marine environment, and sound management of the fishery.

It’s a ‘gold standard’, says Pearl Producers Association President Aaron Irving.

“The standard is an independent, internationally accredited science-based standard, against which the environmental sustainability management of a wild marine resource fishery is rigorously assessed.”

The pearling industry has a chequered history, with many lives lost over the years due to difficult conditions and natural disasters such as cyclones.

However, the last 60 years has seen a resurgence when pearlers worked out how to culture pearls and farm them in a sustainable way.

The Parliamentary Member for the Kimberley region, Josie Farrer, says it is important to recognise the industry’s environmental credentials: “Pearling is a central part of the story of the Kimberley region, and being the home of the world’s first pearls to be certified sustainable, is yet another layer of a rich story of stewardship of our sea country.”

The MSC eco-label can be applied to all pearls produced from wild caught pearl oysters and well as mother of pearl and pearl oyster meat.

All images courtesy of Paspaley Pearling Company

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