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Government of Western Australia - Department of Fisheries

Pearl oyster resource

The silver-lipped pearl oyster, Pinctada maxima, is a filter-feeding bivalve mollusc that is found in coastal waters of Western Australian (WA).

Pearl oysters have cultural significance to the indigenous people of Australia and have been collected for over 20,000 years. Commercial fishing for pearl oysters in WA began in the 1860s. While initially harvested for the mother of pearl shell, today’s pearling industry integrates fishing and aquaculture to produce high quality cultured pearls.

Pearling legislation

Until January 1, 2019, the pearl oyster resource will be managed under the Pearling Act 1990. Until now, the Act has enabled the sustainable management of the resource and the development of pearl culture techniques. But new legislation is needed to make sure that management of the resource can meet future challenges and continue to deliver optimum benefits for the WA community and the pearling industry.

The Aquatic Resources Management Act 2016 (ARMA) commences on 1 January 2019 replacing both the Pearling Act 1990 and the Fish Resources Management Act 1994. This will mean that, for the first time, pearling will be managed under the same Act as all other fishing and aquaculture activities, providing a more consistent and integrated management approach.

Managing the resource through ARMA

The new Act will move existing management arrangements for the pearl oyster resource, including the integration of fishing and pearl production activities, into a modern framework that can accommodate current practice and potential future developments.

Fishing for pearl oysters will be managed in accordance with an Aquatic Resource Management Strategy (ARMS) - a pearl oyster ARMS is being finalised following public consultation. The ARMS  will:

  • establish the main management objective;
  • determine the quantity of the resource that needs to remain in the water for ecological sustainability;
  • set aside a quantity of pearl oysters for customary fishing and public benefit purposes; and
  • give effect to the Minister’s decision on allocation of the pearl oyster resource to fishing sectors.

An Aquatic Resource Use Plan (ARUP) will establish administrative and operational requirements for commercial fishing for pearl oysters.   

Last modified: 17/09/2018 10:48 AM

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