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Applied economics within pearl farming value chains supporting community livelihoods in Fiji and Tonga

Johnston, W. L. (2024) Applied economics within pearl farming value chains supporting community livelihoods in Fiji and Tonga. PhD thesis, University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, 260 pages.


Article Link: https://research.usc.edu.au/esploro/outputs/doctor...


Natural marine pearls were a rare and valuable by-product of a fishery targeting pearl oyster shells for their mother-of-pearl (MOP). This fishery developed around the world throughout the 18th century and increased significantly through the 19th century in Australia and the Pacific islands. Overfishing of the MOP resource led to the development of pearl oyster spat collection techniques to assist stock replenishment. While the MOP industry eventually ceased in the 20th century, spat collection provided a basis for pearl culture industries in the Pacific, that utilised pearl nucleated techniques developed in Japan.
Today, French Polynesia is the largest producer of cultured round pearls in the south Pacific using the endemic black-lip pearl oyster, Pinctada margaritifera. The successful French Polynesian pearl industry was a catalyst for development of pearl culture in other Pacific island countries such as the Cook Islands and Fiji. As well as significant export income, pearl culture offers livelihood opportunities (upstream and downstream) to coastal communities at a number of levels including collection of pearl oyster spat (juveniles) for on-selling to pearl farms as juveniles, and jewellery and MOP shell craft production. Despite being compatible with local lifestyles, round pearl culture has significant barriers to entry including high initial investment, high operational costs, and a requirement for a high level of technical skills.
Alternatively, significant opportunities for coastal communities exist from production of mabé pearls (half pearls) because, although not as valuable as high-grade round pearls, they are cheaper to produce, with a shorter culture period, their production requires fewer technical skills and pearls can be produced by local people with minimal training. Diversification of round pearl farms into mabé pearl production, or the establishment of stand-alone mabé pearl farms, is increasingly prevalent in Pacific pearl producing nations, motivated by risk minimisation, a broader market base and a much simpler and less costly entry pathway to the sector. The overall objective of this study was to generate economic knowledge for targeted components of the pearl culture value chains in Fiji and Tonga, improve understanding of the viability of the pearl sector, documentation of operational costs and inputs to successful pearl culture, assessment of farm viability thresholds, and the impact of adopting new technologies as decision-making tools for pearl farmers. This research was conducted within six research chapters.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Corporate Creators:Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Queensland
Business groups:Animal Science
Keywords:Pearl oyster culture, pearl economics, community-based livelihoods, pearl farm profitability, Fiji, Tonga.
Subjects:Agriculture > Agriculture (General) > Agricultural economics
Aquaculture and Fisheries > Fisheries > Fishery research
Aquaculture and Fisheries > Fisheries > Packing, transportation and storage
Aquaculture and Fisheries > Fisheries > Fishery for individual species
Aquaculture and Fisheries > Fisheries > Shellfish fisheries
Live Archive:08 Mar 2024 06:37
Last Modified:08 Mar 2024 06:38

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