Japan, Bahrain to conduct research on Persian Gulf pearl oysters

Kyodo

Japan and Bahrain will jointly study pearl oysters in the Persian Gulf in a bid to revive the region’s pearl tradition, which has not thrived since the early 20th century, Japanese researchers said Tuesday.

Starting in mid-May, the Japanese researchers, including some from the government-linked Fisheries Research Agency, will examine up to 30,000 “akoya” pearl oysters and other species taken from 10 to 25 meters beneath the surface about 30 to 40 km off Bahrain, they said.

The Bahrain government will fund the study into the factors behind a recent dropoff in natural pearls. Suspected culprits include deteriorating water quality triggered by the island nation’s economic development and depredation by rays.

After identifying the problems, the researchers will try to increase natural pearl production in the Persian Gulf by installing nets to prevent rays from eating pearl oysters and promoting environmentally friendly economic development, among other measures.

In 2012, a pearl-harvesting site on Bahrain’s Muharraq Island was put on UNESCO’s World Heritage list.

The site is the last remaining example of the cultural tradition of the pearl industry and the wealth it generated when the trade dominated the gulf economy between the second century and the 1930s, according to UNESCO.

Before Kokichi Mikimoto successfully developed the cultured pearl, the tradition thrived in gulf nations such as Bahrain, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates.

Among 100 pearl oyster varieties in the Persian Gulf, only a handful produce natural pearls. Necklaces made of natural pearls from the gulf sell for tens of millions of yen.

Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Toshimitsu Motegi reaffirmed cooperation on the pearl oyster research with Bahrain’s Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa in late March in Tokyo.

Yukihiko Matsuyama of the Fisheries Research Agency, who will join the study, said the Japanese researchers will not only make an international contribution but also lay the groundwork for exporting Japan’s pearl technology.