Understanding pearl oyster mortality in Fiji - University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

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Understanding pearl oyster mortality in Fiji

This project aims to determine the factors causing condition loss and mortality in black-lip pearl oysters in Fiji. Research will identify relationships between biological and environmental factors and oyster health. Information on their influences will assist with pearl farm site selection and provide a basis for more appropriate husbandry programs. It will also support consolidation and expansion of the Fijian pearl industry.

  • increased understanding of factors causing poor condition and mortality of cultured pearl oysters in Fiji
  • increased understanding of the pearl farming environment in Fiji
Investigating oyster health to boost industry potential

In the past decade, Fiji became a noted producer of cultured ‘black’ pearls with exports reaching over $6 million. However, there have been periodic declines in production due to poor condition and oyster mortality at the main farming sites around Savusavu, Vanua Levu.

While the mortality of cultured-pearl oysters in atoll-based pearl farming environments in Polynesia has been linked to poor husbandry and environmental factors, these links have limited relevance to high-island environments like Fiji.

This is due to hydrographic and environmental differences between the two countries. A preliminary assessment of pearl oyster health by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) identified bacterial infection as the likely reason for poor oyster health, but the cause or causes for infection were not determined.

Current and future pearl farmers in Fiji will benefit from this work due to: more informed site selection; development of husbandry protocols for pearl oysters that are more appropriate for local conditions; and better capacity to troubleshoot based on improved diagnostic capacity.