Subscribe to our free daily newsletters
. Earth Science News .

Subscribe to our free daily newsletters

Tahiti pearls, mainstay of French Polynesian economy, endangered
Vairao, France (AFP) Nov 24, 2015

The black pearl of Tahiti is at the heart of French Polynesia's economy but is now highly vulnerable to climate change, and its fragile existence underlines - in a small but exquisite way - what is at stake in UN climate talks starting in Paris this month.

"We would be much happier not to have to deal with climate warming," said Teva Rohfritsch, the minister in charge of what is dubbed the "blue economy".

"Nature always adapts," he said, "but we will have to put forward measures to protect our ecosystem."

The Tahitian pearl -- its proper name is "pinctada margaritifera" -- is more commonly referred to as the silver-lipped pearl oyster after the species from which it is harvested.

Though jewel enthusiasts -- and marketing firms -- have branded it the "black pearl" of Tahiti, it is neither black nor from Tahiti.

The biggest island in French Polynesian, renowned for its exotic blue-green waters and white sandy beaches, is not the pearl's home: it is actually harvested in the tiny islands of Tuamotu and Gambiers to Tahiti's southeast.

Officially about 1,300 people toil in farms to unearth this freshwater beauty, but the sector actually counts between 5,000 and 8,000 workers, which allows remote atolls to maintain their population.

The pearl has propped up French Polynesia's economy, bringing nearly 74 million euros ($80 million) to the islands' coffers in 2014, which represents about 70 percent of its export earnings from goods.

The majority of those sales were from trades with Hong Kong (49 percent) and Japan (46 percent).

It is for this reason that the Polynesian government has taken this environmental threat from climate warming so seriously.

- Water temperature 'essential' -

It has since launched a research and development programme co-financed by the industry's private companies.

The problem was first studied 15 years ago, when the government called upon scientists to study the pinctada's quality and colours, which can vary from pink, purple, blue, green, champagne, and grey.

More recently, those scientists were tasked with finding solutions to offset the effects of climate change.

They dealt with the "increase in temperature and acidity of the water," explained Gilles Le Moullac, a research scientist with the Centre Ifremer of the Pacific, in Vairao.

The main question at the heart of the centre's research is "Would the species be able to survive?" Le Moullac said.

Inside the centre's buildings, oysters were submerged into baths set according to what warming experts at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) believe ocean PH levels will be in 40-50 years and in the next century.

The results have proved encouraging.

"We have noticed no impact on the pearl's development," said Le Moullac.

He believes the pearl is protected by its inner shell, even if its outer shell has seen slight damage.

However, it is the rise in the ocean waters' temperatures that is more alarming.

The pinctada is at its "optimum" quality in waters that are at 28.7 degrees Celsius (84 degrees Fahrenheit), Le Moullac said.

IPCC researchers tested scenarios where they raised water temperatures by 2.0 degrees Celsius, Le Moullac said, and found that the pearls were too warm.

The temperature at which they can no longer survive is 34 degrees Celsius (93 degrees Fahrenheit).

In essence, "the water temperature is essential," said Aline Baldassari, a trader who is president of an association that promotes the pearls.

"The waters in the Gambiers are fresher than the waters in Tuamotu, which give the pearl (from Gambiers) a superior quality," she said.

- Moving further south? -

The pearl from Gambiers, however, takes a longer time to harvest -- between 22 and 24 months versus 16 to 18 in Tuamotu, Baldassari added.

Adding to that are issues of a "bloom" of algae that have suffocated lagoons and have proved fatal for the pearls, just like in the Takaroa atoll in 2013-2014.

Research began in Vairao to determine whether the explosion of algae was related to climate change or to pearl farmers' activities related to over-exploitation and improper trash disposal in the lagoons.

What has emerged from the research is the notion of moving the pearls that grow in Tuamotu further south to the islands of Australe.

"They are too warm," said Bran Quinquis, a general administrative counsel of climate change.

"The waters there are a bit colder and the lagoons are available," he added.

Another, less dramatic solution could come from the islands of Marquises. The research centre there found a sub-species of pinctada margaritifera that is used to warmer waters.

"It brings hope," Quinquis said.

Thanks for being here;
We need your help. The SpaceDaily news network continues to grow but revenues have never been harder to maintain.

With the rise of Ad Blockers, and Facebook - our traditional revenue sources via quality network advertising continues to decline. And unlike so many other news sites, we don't have a paywall - with those annoying usernames and passwords.

Our news coverage takes time and effort to publish 365 days a year.

If you find our news sites informative and useful then please consider becoming a regular supporter or for now make a one off contribution.

SpaceDaily Contributor
$5 Billed Once

credit card or paypal
SpaceDaily Monthly Supporter
$5 Billed Monthly

paypal only


Related Links
Water News - Science, Technology and Politics

Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Previous Report
Low-oxygen 'dead zones' in North Pacific linked to past ocean-warming events
Corvallis OR (SPX) Nov 25, 2015
A new study has found a link between abrupt ocean warming at the end of the last ice age and the sudden onset of low-oxygen, or hypoxic conditions that led to vast marine dead zones. Results of the study, which was funded by the National Science Foundation, are being published this week in the journal Nature. Large-scale warming events about 14,700 and again 11,500 years ago occurr ... read more

Children study under open skies as quake rocks education in Pakistan

Preventing famine with mobile phones

MSF hospital strike was 'human error': US general

UN details doubling in weather disasters ahead of climate summit

Creating a new vision for multifunctional materials

3-D printing aids in understanding food enjoyment

Hardened steels for more efficient engines

Primordial goo used to improve implants

River turbines turn Austria's Danube from blue to green

Low-oxygen 'dead zones' in North Pacific linked to past ocean-warming events

Powerful new global arena needed to confront coming water challenges

Tahiti pearls, mainstay of French Polynesian economy, endangered

Warm water is mixing up life in the Arctic

Melting Scandinavian ice provides missing link in Europe's final Ice Age story

Climate change could slash polar bear numbers by 2050

Sea ice plays a pivotal role in the Arctic methane cycle

Trade may not help a warming planet fight its farming failures

South American origins and spread of the Irish potato famine pathogen

High yield crops a step closer in light of photosynthesis discovery

Going native - for the soil

Flooding brings Qatar to near standstill

Hidden earthquakes present challenge to earthquake early-warning systems

Saudi flooding dath toll hits eight

6.8-magnitude quake hits off Solomon Islands: USGS

Pope warns poverty fuels conflict on landmark Africa trip

Pope readies for Africa, riskiest trip of his papacy

Corruption hampered troops fighting Boko Haram: Nigeria's Buhari

In Kenya, a digital classroom in a box

Fossilized Homo erectus skull found in China

Clues emerge about the earliest known Americans

Human brains evolved to be more responsive to environmental influences

'Fourth strand' of European ancestry originated with hunter-gatherers isolated by Ice Age

Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2017 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. All articles labeled "by Staff Writers" include reports supplied to Space Media Network by industry news wires, PR agencies, corporate press officers and the like. Such articles are individually curated and edited by Space Media Network staff on the basis of the report's information value to our industry and professional readership. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement