Pearl fishery aims for world-first eco-label

Gareth McKnightBroome Advertiser

Pearls cultivated in West Kimberley waters are regarded amongst some of the best on the planet, with the State Government announcing that WA’s pearl oyster fishery is in the process of gaining a world-first accreditation.

Fisheries Minister Ken Baston travelled to Broome late last month to announce that the Government hoped the State’s pearl fishery would become the first in the world to obtain the Marine Stewardship Council’s sustainability eco-label.

The fishery, which extends from Exmouth Gulf up to the Northern Territory border, is set to be assessed with a view to obtaining the certification towards the end of 2016.

Mr Baston said the pearl fishery hoped to follow the example of WA’s western rock lobster fishery, which became the first of its kind to become MSC accredited in 2000.

"We may very well be one of the more isolated places in the world, but we have proven to be world leaders in sustainable fisheries management," he said.

"MSC's science-based standard is recognised internationally as the gold standard in independent, third-party certification."

Australia’s South Sea pearling industry is supplied by pearl oyster shell harvested from the world’s last remaining wild stock of Pinctada maxima'''' shell.

Pearl Producers Association and the Department of Fisheries will work closely in the assessment process.

PPA executive officer Aaron Irving said the decision to enter full assessment in the world’s most rigorous fishery benchmarking process was not made lightly.

“Moving to MSC full assessment was decision carefully considered by pearl producers and taken to ensure consumers in our global market know they are making the best environmental choice when buying Australian South Sea pearls,” he said.

“But at the end of the process, when consumers are wearing MSC certified Australian South Sea Pearls, they will know their pearl came from a wild fishery operating to the highest standards of environmental and sustainability management.”

Cygnet Bay Pearls general manager James Brown said the Pinctada maxima pearl shell was a natural phenomenon and that getting MSC certification would be significant.

“MSC certification basically gives the pearling industry a big green tick; that we are complying to a set of United Nations standards and are managing our wild shell resource completely sustainably,” he said.

“I believe that consumers want Australian pearls over cheap imports for a number of reasons and MSC certification should be another tool to help differentiate our high quality pearls from non-Australian products that don’t comply to the same stringent environmental standards.”

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