The World is Their Pearl Oyster

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Australian South Sea Pearling Industry is innovative, re-emergent and is embracing the rarity of Australian South Sea Pearls.

Over the weekend (12 November 2016) the Wall Street Journal ran the story on its website For Australia’s Pearl Farmers, the Wild Is Their Oyster.

The story (written by WSJ journalist Vera Sprothen) that charters the journey of the pearling industry over the past few years, and with a point of view that is both refreshing and rare, celebrates quality and rarity in favour of quantity and mass production:

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The WSJ website also features a video that supplements the story above (click here to view it):

The video is high quality and augmented with footage from the recent National Geographic/Paspaley production “The Secret Life of Pearls.” Again it refreshingly provides some welcomed clarity with respect to an industry that isn’t well know. What is more it provides some astonishing truths about the industry in a global context:

Australia is the last place in the world where pearls are cultured in wild oysters. They are handpicked from the ocean floor by divers…”

In the last few years china has taken over the global market with cheap mass produced freshwater pearls. A single mussel, often cultivated in flooded rice paddies, can yield as many as 50 pearls, whereas a[n Australian] south sea oyster grows just one.”

Experts say that the quality of cheap pearls is proving every year. However, unlike [Australian] south sea pearls, the Chinese ones are irregularly shaped and bleached with chemicals to give them a white gloss.”

[I note that with respect to pearl quality and rarity, one chinese pearl jewellery producer points out in the video when referring to a pearl strand: “This is a big size south sea pearl from Australia. This is the perfect pearl. In every piece the colours match, the surface is very clean and the size is very big.

The video notes a sea-change in approaches by the Australian pearling industry.  The industry is innovating and branching out into the ability for consumers to feel the pearling experience, to bring the consumer closer even insofar as they can see the “grunt behind the glamour.”  The Australian Industry is also embracing their demonstrable sustainability, their harvest of wild oysters by hand, their gentle touch and minimal interaction with the environment and the harmony that is created between the pearl producer and the untamed waters of the Kimberley which is perfectly encapsulated in an Australian South Sea Pearl.

Personally I enjoyed the story. I look forward to the Australian South Sea Pearling Industry to continue to make their global mark.

“All the Glistens is not Gold”: In a World first Australian South Sea Pearls to undergo Assessment against the MSC Standard

 I note that they [the Australian Pearling Industry] are due for Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification – which would certainly make Australian South Sea Pearls the ethical and responsible environmental choice … and make rare Australian pearls rarer still.

 

Vietnam a big transshipment point for smuggling Australian seafood into China says Seafood News

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According to ifeng.com and translated at (SeafoodNews.COM by Amy Zhong) “about 70% of the imported seafood is not taxed in the Mainland China and many seafood items have been smuggled into China through Vietnam, according to some media.

Although this question may not interest consumers, it is of great importance to ask how the  imported seafood they enjoy has entered the Chinese market. Some discreet consumers find it  necessary to distinguish the imported seafood of America from those of Australia, however, they  are not concerned about whether these seafood have been taxed.  

An experienced lobster supplier in Australia has told the reporter from Free Trade Zone Post (FTZ Post) that a comparatively high proportion of imported seafood has been brought  into China in an illegal way. The proportion may be as high as 70%, according to his estimation. 

Although overseas suppliers know that this kind of smuggling has existed for a long time, they have not  intervened but thought that it should be handled by the Chinese.  One Australian supplier has warned that although the price of these illegal seafood may be  about 20% to 30% less than those imported legally, the safety of the illegal seafood can not be  guaranteed owing to a lack of examination and quarantine.  

However, the reality is that neither the importers nor the eaters care about if these seafoods are imported legally.  

As the data show, Vietnam and China are both among the top three in view of importing the  western Australian seafood from July 1, 2013 to June 30, 2014. But China’s import value is only  US$100 million, a third of Vietnam’s import value, which is US$320 million. 

This clearly doesn’t  match the spending power..

Bigeye Tuna are overfished say ISSF!

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According to Blank:

The International Seafood Sustainability Foundation’s (ISSF) new Status of the Stocks rating report downgraded Pacific bigeye tuna stocks from a “green” rating — signifying the stock is healthy — to “orange,” meaning the stocks are overfished.

“This year, the stock assessments for both Pacific stocks of bigeye tuna (eastern Pacific and western and central Pacific) showed that the abundance has fallen below the level that would correspond to maximum sustainable yield (MSY),” Victor Restrepo (pictured), VP of science for ISSF, told SeafoodSource. The Pacific bigeye stocks became overfished in 2012 or 2013, he added.

“The reason they became overfished is simply because the exploitation rate is too high. Depending on their natural rates of mortality, growth and reproduction, fish stocks have turnover rates that allow them to replace the biomass lost to fishing, up to a point,” he said.

As a result, catches of Pacific bigeye tuna need to be reduced “to a level commensurate with their turnover capability,” Restrepo said. “This may be hard to do politically, but in concept it is pretty simple. Fishing needs to be managed.”

In addition to Pacific bigeye tuna, 39 percent of all global tuna stocks are overfished, ISSF found, while 52 percent of the all tuna stocks are at a healthy level of abundance, and 9 percent are at an “intermediate level.”

In addition, 17.4 percent of global tuna stocks are being overfished, while 43.5 percent of the stocks are experiencing a low fishing mortality rate, and 39 percent have a high fishing mortality that is being managed adequately, according to ISSF.

“The high rate of overfishing ultimately has to do with too much fishing capacity in the ocean. There are more vessels than are needed to exploit these stocks at the MSY level,” Restrepo said. “On top of that, the decision-making mechanisms at the regional fisheries management organizations (RFMOs) that manage the stocks tend to be consensus-driven. They are slow, and tend to build in many exemptions and loopholes that make them less effective than they could be.”

Meanwhile, the percentage of the global tuna catch that comes from healthy stocks declined from 91 percent to 86 percent since ISSF’s last report in April 2014.

“When viewed from the point of view of total catch, 86 percent of the catch comes from healthy stocks. This is due to the fact that skipjack stocks contribute more than one half of the global catch of tunas, and they are all in a healthy situation,” according to an ISSF statement.

“In contrast, most bluefin stocks and two out of six albacore stocks are overfished, but combined they make a relatively small fraction of the total catch.”

Bigeye tuna, Thunnus obesus, on ice. Picture source NOAA FishWatch (Wikimedia Commons)

Bigeye tuna, Thunnus obesus, on ice. Picture source NOAA FishWatch (Wikimedia Commons)